“Chunking Tuna at the Bacardi ” “How Good is Good”
The hottest news on the fishing scene for the past few years has been the development of a tuna fishery employing “stand up tackle” and “chunking” techniques. “Chunking” simply involves the use of whole or sectioned, “chunked” baitfish to produce a chum line to attract the desired gamefish. In the case of tuna, it has attracted a lot of attention because it offers several distinct advantages over trolling which had previously been the method of choice for most sportfishermen.
“Chunking” is essentially still fishing, used while drifting or most often at anchor. As such, it saves wear and tear on the boat’s machinery. The cost of fuel is also greatly reduced, usually more than offsetting the cost of chunking bait. I personally find this type of fishing very relaxing and enjoyable compared to trolling. A long day of trolling while listening to the roar of the motors and bouncing through the waves is not my idea of having fun especially when the fishing is slow. This “chunking” method, besides proving to be very effective, has allowed the party boat fleet and their loyal customers an opportunity to partake of some very exciting big game fishing, as trolling was simply out of the question for these type of boats. As a result, many new anglers who previously could not afford to own and operate a large sportfishing boat, now have an opportunity to enjoy this type of fishing. This has been a boon to the manufacturers of “stand up” fishing tackle and other related gear which is well suited for this type of fishing. It has brought a lot of activity to the industry and attracted the attention of a much larger segment of sportsmen and sportswomen. As I write, the 1990 season is just about ended. In fact, the quota for school and medium bluefins has been filled and only giant bluefins and other species may still be taken. With winter winds already starting to blow, the end is surely not far away. In assessing the past season one would have to say it was a good one. The tuna settled in around the wreck of the Bacardi and around the forty fathom curve southeast of Shinnecock Inlet and the fishing was excellent right into October. “Chunking” was at it’s best, and many people enjoyed themselves immensely in tangling with these great gamefish.
Although fishing was good to excellent in the deep offshore areas, it was disappointing that no real inshore fishery in the 20-40 mile range ever developed. Were all the fish being held at the Bacardi and Forty Fathoms by the huge fleet of chunkers and draggers that worked these areas? Was it because the inshore waters are polluted? Was it because the number of fish have been depleted and just a matter of not enough to go around? No one knows the answers for sure, but regardless of what they are, it was a disappointment for the small boat owner that could not safely make the long run to these areas. This all brings me to the heart of the matter, over-fishing and abuse of the fish stocks. The greatest disappointment of the season was the appearance once again of a small group of unsporting, greedy, destructive individuals. Rather than enjoy lots of action and releasing fish while keeping a reasonable amount of the larger fish, these individuals proceeded to keep every fish that could be brought aboard. What amazed me is that they boasted about the fact that they caught so many fish and also found some publication to print and therefore broadcast their great “success”. The old ignorant attitude that bringing in the most fish makes one a great fisherman, and that they should command the respect of the rest of the sportfishing community, is still present amongst us. In reality, their actions driven by their “macho” attitude and greed for a fast buck in selling the fish to “foreigners” has shown the true colors of these individuals. They are not sportfishermen nor are they even good fishermen. They are in a very distinct group all to themselves and yet damaging to the entire fishing community. They are selfish, ignorant abusers!
As you can probably sense, I am not happy about this situation. When I sit back and think about the situation, I remember how it has always happened in the past. A few misguided, shortsighted selfish individuals both in the sportfishing and commercial sectors have, in large part, led to the destruction of an entire fishery. It occurred with the weakfish, swordfish, striped bass and bluefin and appears to be heading that way for several other species, yellowfin and bluefish included. It seems that only legislated regulations may save the fish populations. Regulations have seemed to help in a number of situations. A noteworthy example is the recent success with striped bass conservation measures. However, many management acts are shortsighted or not quite as effective as they were planned to be. As an example, the inadequacy of the Magnuson Act in protecting tuna.
I believe that conservation efforts on the part of organizations like the New York Sportfishing Federation are beginning to take hold. They have been successful in having meaningful legislation approved. However, it is still the responsibility of the individual to get directly involved in trying to protect this valuable resource. The greatest threat to the future of sportfishing lies in maintaining the quality of the environment, but also important is the reduction in the total amount of fish taken, so as to maintain a healthy spawning population. In this regard, I believe it is an individual’s responsibility to speak up when you see someone breaking the law and keeping an excessive number of fish or undersize fish. Tell them directly to their face that you do not approve or that you will report them.
Keep on top of proposed legislation, especially with regard to commercial fishing regulations. Commercial fishing has the potential with modern equipment and techniques, to deplete an entire fishery in a very short time. The use of non selective “dirty” gear such as haul-seines, gillnets and longlines, can be very damaging to a fish population. Everyone should get personally involved. A good place to begin would be to let your legislators know how you feel regarding the attempt by a small group of commercial fishermen to reopen a full scale commercial fishery for striped bass. Remember how plentiful they once were? Remember how scarce they became? Most of all, remember how they came back when commercial fishing was stopped and only a reasonable number were allowed to be caught by sportfishermen? I remember!