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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
July 01, 2009
Volume 20 � Number 7

COVER PAGE    CONTENTS    DEPARTMENTS    SURF SIDE

Surf Side
by John Skinner

In the June monthly column, I wrote about how June is probably the best month for targeting big bass from Long Island beaches. I'm writing this column with a week left to go in June, and already there have been numerous trophy class stripers brought to the scales to support that statement.Among the very large fish reported were a 57.5-pounder for George Jackman, a 59.75-pounder for Rob Koch, and a 55.75-pounder for Mike Coppola. There were several others in the high 40s weighed in as well. Most of the large bass were caught at Montauk. Persistent easterly winds very likely helped push those fish within the range of surfcasters.

As we look ahead, there's still plenty of time to catch quality bass before the summer doldrums set in. It should help that overcast skies and cool temperatures have kept the water temperatures below normal.

I hate writing about beach access issues, but we need beach access to fish, so sometimes it becomes necessary. In this case I have some good news, and a story that shows an excellent example of what anglers can accomplish when they work together.

Exactly one year ago, I wrote a column that publicized a newly enacted fishing ban on a Brookhaven Town Beach at Shoreham. When I first heard that there were "No Fishing" signs in a Town park, I didn't believe it. Only after I saw the signs myself did I realize that Brookhaven Town was really telling us that our right to recreation below the Mean High Water Mark was not being respected. When I asked a staff member at the Shoreham Town Beach what would happen if I carried a fishing rod onto the beach, he responded, "I'll have to call Public Safety".

This couldn't be allowed to stand. Even if, like me, you had no interest in fishing that particular area, allowing such a ban to stand would set a very dangerous precedent. How long would it take for other towns to follow Brookhaven's lead and basically set aside beaches for only those who own property along the shore?

Stan Hentschel, the long-time owner of Rocky Point Fishing Stop, got the ball rolling by having the issue addressed at a Brookhaven Business Community Alliance Meeting in Rocky Point. I attended that meeting, and it was clear that there was little, if any, support for the ban from the business interests at the meeting. Leaders of the Business Alliance set up a closed meeting with Town officials, at which Stan and I were present to represent fishing interests. This was a terrible meeting, as local Councilwoman Jane Bonner and her associates stood by the ban and were not at all receptive to ideas to improve the fishing access situation on Brookhaven's North Shore. Bonner was previously quoted in a local paper as saying that anyone using the Shoreham Town Beach as an access point to the Sound to go fishing would be "trespassing". She stood by that statement at the meeting. When I said at the meeting that I view the area below the High Water Mark as simply everyone's beach without any need to think about who owns the property on the top of the bluff, a local property owner shook his head no and said "you can't think that way here". It was a very depressing meeting.

The rest of the story is a poster child of what anglers can accomplish when they get together and act. The Long Island Beach Buggy Association (LIBBA), New York Coalition for Recreational Fishing (NYCRF), and numerous individuals got involved to pressure the Town. Several fishing-related websites and publications kept the issue in the eye of the public. When the Town Supervisor's seat went up for election, anglers showed up in force at "Meet the Candidates Night". I attended one of these gatherings hosted by the Shoreham Civic Association. This was the best example of anglers in action standing up for their rights. In my opinion, this meeting would turn the tide on the ban. The room was packed with fishermen. They were courteous, respectful, and behaved as guests of the Civic Association, but there was no doubt who they were and why they were there. Sporting clothes and hats from numerous fishing clubs and organizations, it was no wonder why candidate Mark Lesko said in his opening statement "I guess we'll be talking about fishing". When you're fighting for votes, and 3/4 of the room you're standing in front of represents a particular interest, you'd be foolish not to pay attention to them.

It was clear to me, and many others in attendance, the Lesko was in the anglers' corner. As an accomplished federal prosecutor, he didn't seem to have much trouble grasping the basic concepts of the Public Trust Doctrine that spells out the public's right to the shoreline. In the wake of that meeting was an all out push for votes for Lesko. The fishing-related websites were instrumental in getting the word out. Even though Lesko was a newcomer to the Brookhaven political scene, anglers' votes helped him win the election Following the election, LIBBA and NYCRF stayed in contact with Lesko concerning the beach access.

I will end this column with an announcement made on June 16th by Tom Farrell, Secretary of NYCRF. I'd like to add my congratulations and thanks to all who worked so hard on this, and to remind everyone that anglers need not be at the mercy of shore-front property owners who claim the beaches for themselves, or the politicians that support them.

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"I can finally give all of you some very good news. I finally spoke to Supervisor Mark Lesko today. The Town of Brookhaven now has a new policy regarding fishing at Shoreham Beach. As of today Shoreham Beach has been added to Brookhaven's Night Fishing Permit. Also fishermen will be required to obtain a fishing access sticker for Shoreham Beach for daytime use.

This is not a fishing permit or license. It is to determine who is a resident or a non-resident. The fishing access sticker will be free to all Town of Brookhaven residents. If you are a non resident you will be able to park in the lot for a fee of $20 and that parking fee will include the sticker. Walk on access will be permitted for a fee of $10. You will be required to provide valid legal documentation to obtain the sticker. The normal hours of the beach will be extended as well. The beach will be open from 5am to 9pm daily. There will be employees in the booth during those hours. The official opening date for Shoreham Beach is 27 June 2009. However the night fishing permit is currently in effect."


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