The weather's warming up and so are the tempers of the state's recreational fishermen. They claim that the state's commercial fishermen are stringing so many pots (fish traps) around the state's artificial reefs that the recreational fishermen can't gain access to these fish-rich areas.
The DEP and Marine Fisheries Council are trying to negotiate a settlement but the issue has Monmouth County's hook-and-line fishermen so upset that they convinced Assemblyman Sean Kean to introduce a bill, A-3986, which would prohibit the use of fishing pots around the man-made reefs.
Both sides argued it out on Monday before the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and it quickly became a watery "turf" battle. The recreational side said they had spent many years and money to support the creation of the artificial turf and now were effectively being excluded from using them. They claimed that there are many thousands of New Jersey recreational fishermen but only 40 commercial vessels.
The commercial side, in response, said they had been fishing the contested areas for years before the artificial reefs were created and, although their numbers might be small, their efforts benefit restaurant patrons and other fish eaters across the country. The NJ Restaurant Association and Garden State Seafood Association joined them in opposing the bill.
At the end of the meeting, the bill was released for a floor vote but obviously the fight is far from over.