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  • December 31, 2008

    Merwin: Easy New Year's Resolution

    By John Merwin & Joe Cermele

    Fifteen degrees and snowing hard here in the North Country this morning, a very wintry New Year's Eve.

    Today brings thoughts of New Year's resolutions, of course,  but I have to say I'm not big on resolutions I already know won't be kept. So instead of promising myself things like weight loss or more rigorous exercise in the new year ahead, here's my one resolution: Fish more, work less.

    Sounds pretty good, huh? I have not yet figured out just how I'm going to make that work, but I'm going to try. It's not that fishing is necessarily so important, but, as the late John Voelker once said, that so many other things are equally unimportant and not nearly as much fun.

    Don't party too hard tonight, folks, and drive safely. Happy New Year!

  • December 30, 2008

    Merwin: Shark Candy

    By John Merwin & Joe Cermele

    This is just incredible. Here's a video of an encounter  between some kayak fishermen and a very large great white shark off  the coast of Australia. It was originally posted by BBC News on Sunday. As a kayak angler myself--sometimes in saltwater--it just scares the bejesus out of me.

    It also reminds me of a very sick and very old joke. Why do  sharks like kayakers? Because they're crispy on the outside and soft  and chewy on the inside. Funny, I suppose, unless you're a kayaker like these guys!

  • December 29, 2008

    Merwin: Boating Blues

    By John Merwin & Joe Cermele

    While our crippled economy is making headlines every day, its painful effects on field sports do not. They should, though, and the current state of the boating industry is a good example.
             
    Those same boats we as fishermen depend on are generally viewed as expensive luxury items. A fairly simple walleye boat with a 75-horsepower outboard, for example, runs $10,000 to $20,000 or more now when new. Major-brand center consoles in the 20- to 22-foot range are hitting $75,000 or so fully rigged. And when a high-end freshwater-bass boat tops $50,000 then I'm really scratching my head in wonder.
             
    Afford them or not, many people were buying such things until the recent credit crunch put the boating industry into a dramatic downward spiral. Home-equity, once often used for boat-buying, has evaporated. Major companies such as GE Capital that financed boat-dealer inventories, meanwhile, are rapidly pulling back.
             
    As an angler, I don't think a boat is a luxury. But at the same time I don't think this is the year when I'll be trading in my fully-paid-for skiff for a newer model. As a matter of fact, maybe I'll look for a new pair of waders instead. Waders get really good gas mileage, too....

  • December 26, 2008

    Merwin: Saltwater Licensing Set For 2010

    By John Merwin & Joe Cermele

    Just a day after I posted the news that a new federal
    saltwater fishing license was being postponed, the National Marine
    Fisheries Service issued a release stating that implementation of their "Angler Registry" will begin
    on January 1, 2010. It had been set to begin in just a few days, on
    January 1, 2009.

    The reason for the delay, as I was first told, was a hang-up
    in getting the proposed rule approved by the federal Office of
    Management and Budget (OMB). That OMB problem isn't mentioned in the
    release, which instead says the delay is intended to give coastal
    states that don't have saltwater licensing--generally from New Jersey
    north to Maine--time to develop a way of accurately counting their
    saltwater anglers. That will for the most part mean adopting their own
    saltwater licensing systems before the feds do it for them.

    Read the links above for an excellent explanation of the
    federal plan. Understand also that if, for example, you live in
    Illinois or Ohio and travel to fish stripers in Massachusetts, then
    the licensing requirement will also apply to you.

  • December 25, 2008

    Cermele: Santa Brought Me Instruments of Death!

    By Joe Cermele

    Actually, it wasn't Santa, but my fiancee, Christen. You know you've got the right girl when she spends her hard-earned coin on a new AFTCO flying gaff for you for Christmas. So here I sit, Christmas morning in my jammies admiring this new addition to the ever-growing arsenal.
    Gaff

    I don't expect anyone will read this today, but I was so excited, I had to share. On a side note, it's 60 degrees in Jersey this morning. Do I sneak out to the trout stream for a few hours before Christmas dinner? Or would that just be wrong? I can't decide, and that, my friends is my problem. I imagine normal people wouldn't dream of fishing today.

    Merry Christmas!

    JC

  • December 24, 2008

    Merwin: A Very Merry Christmas

    By John Merwin & Joe Cermele

    Our local streams and lakes are locked in ice, and deep snow
    covers the pines and spruces outside my window. Two cats are curled
    quietly sleeping in front of the woodstove. There's a wreath on the
    door. The tree is trimmed and sparkling in the living room. Welcome to
    Christmas eve in Vermont.

    Family smiles and joyous wishes brighten these short winter
    days. We'll take some time, too, in wishing devoutly for peace on
    earth and good will toward men--especially those who fish!

    Merry Christmas to all of you....

  • December 23, 2008

    Cermele: Putting It To Bed

    By Joe Cermele

    Sing with me now..."it's the most MISERABLE time of the year!"

    I'm sorry, but I always get depressed when the boat officially comes home for a long winter's nap. It's not so much that I can't go out anymore, but the symbolism. If the Tunacious is on dry land, it means the stripers have packed their bags for the waters of Virginia and North Carolina. The blackfish and sea bass now reside over 50 miles offshore on the canyon edges. Tuna are a distant summer memory. There's ice on the bay. It's over on the inshore grounds, fellas.
    1220081103b
     
    But the real depression this year stems from sadness that I had to put my baby away wounded. When I got the call from the marina that the boat was out and winterized, they also mentioned that one of my trim tabs was missing. I know it was there during my last trip, so I immediately suspected that they banged the boat around when they pulled it. I became certain when they offered to fix it for free in the spring because they "have a bunch of tabs just laying around."

    1220081210

    To make matters worse, there's also a fresh gouge in the fiberglass near the bow, and a big scrape mark from the lift. If you ask me, beating up another man's boat is no different than slapping his girlfriend around. Unless I make it way out for cod on a party boat or travel south this winter, it's all trout and pickerel from here.

    JC

  • December 22, 2008

    Merwin: Saltwater Licensing Postponed

    By John Merwin & Joe Cermele

    A federal rule that would have required most unlicensed
    saltwater anglers to join an "Angler Registry" by Jan. 1, 2009 has
    been postponed. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has
    developed the proposed rule as required under law by the Magnuson-
    Stevens Act. Anglers fishing in federal waters as well as those
    fishing in (inshore) state waters for anadromous fish such as striped
    bass were to have registered as such with NMFS, creating what amounts
    to a federal saltwater fishing license. The exceptions were those
    anglers already holding a saltwater license from states that require
    them. Northeastern coastal states from New Jersey north to Maine do
    not (yet) require a license.

    When I asked NMFS spokesman Forbes Darby last week what
    happened to the rule, he explained that NMFS had submitted the
    proposed rule to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for
    approval. This has to happen before the rule is made official by
    publication in the Federal Register. OMB has yet to reply, Darby told
    me, which means the new licensing rule can't be implemented by the
    planned January 1 deadline. Darby had no guess as to when OMB approval
    might happen.

    Saltwater licensing is a hugely contentious issue in the
    Northeast. The question remains not if it is going to happen--it will--but when.

  • December 19, 2008

    Merwin: Mice, Revisited

    By John Merwin & Joe Cermele

    The other day I wrote about the damage mice sometimes do to 
    fishing gear. Then I remembered the following and figured you might 
    get a kick out of the photos.
             

    One of our several kayaks had been outside and in upside-
    down storage for a couple of years. There was a tightly fitted cover 
    over the cockpit to keep critters out.
             

    When my son Jason and I turned the boat over last summer, 
    there was a little chewed hole in the middle of the cockpit cover. The 
    cockpit itself was full of chewed, dried leaves and bits of old fabric 
    and feathers and general mouse fluff. Just a huge collection. But in 
    digging around and cleaning out, we found no mouse.
    Mouse1

    Then I noticed a small hole that had been chewed in the 
    bulkhead behind the seat, which seals off--or used to--the rear hatch 
    compartment. So we pulled the hatch off and found that compartment to 
    be full of mouse debris, too. I mean, there were just bushels of 
    stuff!
    Mouse2

    So we started pulling that out, and finally found just a 
    single white-footed mouse cowering in the extreme rear of the boat. We 
    carefully caught the mouse in gloved hands and let it go. I didn't 
    have the heart to stomp on it. Just an old softy, I guess....

  • December 18, 2008

    Cermele: Are You Pro to the Bone?

    By Joe Cermele

    You would think the ability to clean fish comes with the territory of knowing how to catch them. I pride myself on doing it well, as nothing burns me more than killing a fish, then butchering the meat into an unappetizing  pile of mush. I can think of many situations where good anglers have passed me the knife, or subtly asked if I'd be cool with cleaning the fish. For the most part, these guys are catch-and-release anglers who keep only occasionally, but I've also had some casual, non-hardcore anglers hook a fish on my boat and ask if I'd clean it before the net even hit the water. The thoughts of doing it themselves was mortifying.

    All that said, you might think a DVD devoted entirely to fish-cleaning seems a bit much. That's what I thought, too, when I got a copy of Minnesota guide Steve Scepaniak's "Fish Cleaning Made Easy!" But after watching it (all of it, I was enthralled, frankly) I've decided it is probably one of the most informative fishing videos I've ever watched, partially because it's very clear and well put together, and partially because I'd rather have more anglers know how not to waste fish they kill than how to actually catch them.
    Fishcleaningdvd_3

    Steve shows you how to clean, skin, scale, fillet, and bone 9 species, including perch, crappie, trout, and catfish. He even details removing pesky Y bones from pike. Mixed in with all is a great knife-sharpening bit and tips on keeping your catch fresh on the water.

    A lot of this stuff seems like a no-brainer, but I promise you'll learn something, whether you've been cleaning fish for years or never tried it. There's not one of us out there that hasn't messed up dinner with a bad cut, gut, or skin job. Tell me about your worst fillet table massacre. If it's brutal enough, maybe I'll send you a copy.

    JC 

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