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February 2023 Meeting Recap

Our guest speaker was Captain Paul Eidman of Menhaden Defenders, Reel Therapy
Charters, and the JCAA, and he is also a former member of the MFC.

Captain Eidman has spent 30+ years defending menhaden (bunker) and actually has a movie on menhaden coming out soon. He reported that he has been “taking on” Omega Protein, a corporate giant that has dramatically hurt menhaden biomass in Virginia, Louisiana and Mississippi for their parent company, Cooke Aquaculture, Inc., which is a global seafood provider.

There are two predominant bunker markets, the first is the reduction industry which grinds the fish for fish meal, fish oil, fertilizer, etc. The second is the bait industry which is focused on trap bait for lobsters and crabs. Cooke Aquaculture, Inc. uses menhaden primarily for their salmon farms.

Captain Eidman also noted that the Chesapeake Bay is no longer the primary source of stripers in NJ, it is now the Hudson River. This is due to 4 consecutive years of below average spawning results in the Chesapeake Bay and higher spawning results in the Hudson. Evidence is that bass fishing in Raritan Bay has been “epic” recently, as a result successful spawning and also the presence of adult bunker. There has been a shortage of peanut bunker, however, which may be a concerning trend.

He also gave us some tips...if fishing the beach, try using mole crabs for bait in the trough.

Bluefish have been hit or miss the last two years, but can be targeted with top water lures in early April. They seem to be staying offshore.

Weakfish are also “hit or miss”. But when the tide runners are over 4 pounds, they hit like a freight train. Target the weakfish with sinking fly lines or slow-moving jigs.

And lastly, Captain Eidman emphasized that it is critically important to participate in fisheries meetings and public hearings. And it is far more effective to write letters than to simply respond to auto-generated electronic mailings. Our many thanks go to Captain Eidman for not only his very informative talk, but also for his tireless efforts in preserving our fisheries.