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Capt. Steve Byrne

Steve Byrne is a charter captain and fishing addict. He holds the current IGFA weakfish 30# line-class record, & guided his two sons to IGFA records of their own. "Catching stripers for 40 years, I love releasing big fish to catch them another day!"

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May 20, 2013

2013 FCA Manhattan Cup

by Capt. Steve Byrne

Sitting at the scoring table with Manhattan Cup creator Dave Fallon, I couldn't help but compare myself to a clown sitting in a dunk tank at the Fair. The entire fleet of 41 boats managed to return to Chelsea Piers nearly simultaneously, just minutes before the 4PM tournament deadline. Score sheets shot at us like paintballs, with everyone clamoring, "Who won?"

I figured the late return indicated one of two things: a slow day on the water, or a late bite. Looking at the results, both assumptions were accurate.

Of the 41 boats entered in the Cup, only 26 turned in score sheets with fish. Three boats were used for camera crews, so there were a dozen boats that either got skunked or simply felt they had no contending fish so they didn't turn in their score sheet. These are some of the best charter captains around; if they had a hard time finding fish, it was a tough day on the water.

Of the 85 striped bass entered on the score sheets, 51 of them were caught after 1PM. A handful of stripers were caught during the final hour of the tournament - most years the majority of captains are back at the dock by then.

The overall winner of the 2013 FCA Manhattan Cup was, appropriately, one of our honored Wounded Warriors. Looking at Army Specialist James O'Leary, you would never know he was gravely injured during a 2003 mortar attack in Iraq. Powerfully built, James lost part of his left lung and shoulder in the attack. The injuries that left him near death could not prevent him from landing a 33.20-pound striped bass and taking home the Cup.

NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional Administrator, John Bullard, fished with Capt. Tony DiLernia and proved he knows his way around a rod and reel. John caught the heaviest striper on artificial in the celebrity division with a 5.91-pound fish and just missed the top striped bass on bait in the celebrity division with an 18.74-pound fish.

I took advantage of the opportunity to grab John and express to him FCA's support for "regional management" of fisheries. Those bodies of water bordered by more than one State, that currently have multiple sets of regulations, are a constant problem, with anglers crossing State boundaries for fish that are short or out of season, frustrating anglers from the more restrictive side of the water and making them more likely to ignore regulations.

The 15th Manhattan Cup was a resounding success, with 85 striped bass and hundreds of bluefish caught - and all released alive! With the support of a team of volunteers dedicated to the resource, we proved again that New York City is home to a vibrant fishing community and that we don't have to kill hundreds of fish to have a successful tournament.

Congratulations to the winners, and heartfelt thanks to all of those volunteers who gave their time and energy to make the Manhattan Cup possible - it wouldn't happen without you!

The FCA Manhattan Cup raises money for a variety of programs.

The Hooked for a Lifetime children's program takes groups of underprivileged and autistic children out to the pier and shows them, and their families, the where, when and how to catch a fish. The children also receive rods, reels and tackle boxes so they can come back and do it again.

FCA hosts Veteran's fishing trips to honor both our Wounded Warriors and our Veterans. The Manhattan Cup features a few boats that have Wounded Warriors on board as anglers. These guys are the best, and everyone wants to fish with them. During the summer, FCA typically hosts a Veterans fishing trip on one of our local party boats to honor our Veterans and give back a little bit to those who gave so much.

The organization conducts beach clean ups throughout the year, and is active in fisheries management, advocating positions that protect fish yet ensure recreational anglers' access to them.

May 10, 2013

Rethinking Fishing

by Capt. Steve Byrne

In the hours immediately after Sandy passed, I drove in the darkness to the marina where my boat was docked. You've seen the pictures; boats upside down, underwater, docks sticking straight up into the air…that's what I saw when I turned into the lot. I was certain that my boat could not have survived the storm in the water, but there it was right where I left it.

Those minutes of uncertainty made me wonder: what if my boat was gone? With a mortgage, college tuition and high school tuition to pay, it's probably not realistic to think I'd be able to run out and buy another new boat. That left me thinking about the fishing I'd done - or not done - over the course of the past decade.

The charter business has been a great experience, and it allowed me to afford a brand new boat and keep it in the water. It's been fun, but there's a hidden cost. To be more exact, what you're really selling is not just your expertise; it's the opportunities to catch big fish. And those opportunities are limited.

It's time to get out and have some fun of my own.

Maybe when I retire from my "regular job" I will go back into the business full time, but for now I want to fish. Life is too short.

Speaking of fishing, I made my first post-Sandy trip today with a couple of friends and we had 4 bass from 15 to 17 pounds, plus a whole lot of bluefish on bunker chunks. We fished in 22 feet of water just outside the channel. The water temperature was a surprising 61 degrees, and as the tide dropped it went up to 64.

Bunker were not easy, but they were certainly get-able. I don't want to sound preachy, but when you see a boat closing in on some bunker splashes, please don't approach the same pod from the other side or try to cut off the boat. The inevitable result is that neither of you will get the bunker, so what's the point? Also, you need to trust your fishfinder.

While bunker splashes are great indicators of where to throw your net, they are just that - indicators. Go to the splashes, but when you get there - look at your screen! If the marks are not thick don't bother throwing the net.

Fishing in Raritan Bay is excellent right now. There are plenty of bass, bunker and bluefish around, so there's no reason to stay off the water. Bait guys are having success with clams and bunker while trollers are catching bass on plugs, with the bigger fish coming on spoons.

I am looking forward to spending a lot of time on the water over the next few weeks. I'll keep you posted.
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