Ready to go early Saturday morning at dockChris Smith, local fishermen, and for-hire boat captains celebrate reopening of delayed fishing season
After working through the week to win a safe easing of the COVID-19 restrictions on the for-hire fishing boats, Rep. Chris Smith met with captains and customers early this morning as they boarded local vessels and kicked-off the 2020 fluke fishing season.
“Today’s partial reopening is a good start,” Smith said. “The weather could be better, but people are here to go fishing and the eased restrictions mean more people can participate and our local businesses can start making money again. After speaking with fishermen today, I think spirits are lifted and hopes are higher.”
Smith has been working with the United Boatmen and Recreational Fishing Alliance, and their effective representative, Ray Bogan, to urge Governor Murphy to reopen the fishing boats at a capacity that is both safe and economically viable. News of the change came Friday morning.According to Mr. Bogan, the State’s closure had resulted in New Jersey’s party boats losing an important portion of their season: “Though limiting the boats to 25 anglers is not ideal, it at least allows them to bring in some income and keep their businesses. We are grateful to Congressman Smith for championing our cause and pressing the Governor to increase the number of patrons we can carry. ”
Smith thanked the Governor and called Friday’s announcement “a welcomed development that will enable these vessels to safely serve customers and sustain their businesses.” He added, “we look to the near future for further relief, but for now, the boats are moving again and other local business, like tackle shops that rely on the fishing industry, can also begin to recover economically from COVID-19.”
Smith also pointed out that the customers look forward to catching and consuming fluke and noted its popularity in our local food supply.
Governor Murphy’s previous order prohibited more than 10 people on a “for hire boat,” which included party and charter boats. The governor’s 10-person restriction enabled the smaller charter boats to sail at a profit, but was not helpful for the bigger party boats, some of which are over 100 feet long with eight passengers and two crew doesn’t even cover the price of the fuel. The increase to 25 customers makes the trips economically feasible.
Smith said that in addition to the party boat fleets in Belmar, Brielle and Point Pleasant in his congressional district, there are also party fishing boats in Atlantic Highlands, Barnegat, Sea Isle City, Ocean City, Cape May and Fortesque.