Portrait of Rocky Saxatalis
The Flopping Flounder Fishing Club*
Fish For (us conservationists) Tomorrow
(Never for anyone else)
BelHaven, NJ
June 8, 1998

Dear Senator (or Assemblyman or Assemblywoman) _______________:

I am writing to you about the Bill recently introduced by Assemblymen Asselta and Impreveduto that would let netters catch and just about anybody eat striped bass in New Jersey. I and all my buddies down at the Flopping Flounder Fishing Club oppose this. I know that the netters are saying that this is legislation for New Jersey consumers and doesn’t have much to do with fishing, but let me set the record straight. The netters are using this as a foot in the door. Today they want to be allowed to keep a small part of the commercial striped bass quota that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has already allocated to them. Tomorrow they’ll want more, and we know those industrial, search and destroy, converted aircraft carrier and nuclear submarine, foreign owned factory trawler fleets that they’re in cahoots with are anchored just over the horizon, just waiting to get to our New Jersey stripers.

I’m a committed conservationist (I used to be a sportsfisherman, but if we don’t call ourselves that no one will think we kill as many fish as we do) and am a proud, card carry-ing member of the angling fraternity. We’ve shown time and again with real, scientific studies that we’ve paid good money for that we contribute more to New Jersey’s economy every year than just about anybody else. As proof, let me share with you my sportsfishing….oops, I mean my conservation expenditures for last year alone (I’ve been keeping careful records since I caught my first striper back in ‘91):

Monthly payment on Chevy Suburban ($499/month)
If I didn’t use this 7,000 pound behemoth a dozen times a year to drive around on the sand, my payments for a normal car would be $150 per month
Annual gas bill (2000 miles a month at 10 mpg) for the Suburban
Ditto at 30 mpg instead of 10
Suburban repairs
Boy, that sand and salt water really tears up all the four wheel drive mechanical stuff
Those menhaden netters are really gouging us 
Box Lunches
My cousin, his wife and three kids flew in from the coast in August for our Aunt Harriet’s 3rd wedding. I took him fishing once while they were here.
Emergency room visit (hook removal) 
 My wife got too near a back cast on one of our trips (I thought by this time she’d know better!)
Follow-up care 
Who would have thought a little bit of menhaden on that small a hook could cause a serious infection?
Physical therapy - 14 sessions @ $75 
Her hand’s almost as good as new, and you can’t hardly notice the scars.
Marriage counseling - 28 sessions @ $100 
But she’s lost her sense of humor completely.
Fishing Tackle 
What with being laid off and the expense of the physical therapy, which we’re finally done with, and counseling (still going), I didn’t feel right spending more.
Grand Total 
If you’d like to check any of these numbers, I’ll be glad to put you in touch with my Chevy dealer and his mechanic (if you want to know how important fishin….er, conservation is to the economy, ask them how they’d like me to go back to driving a four cylinder, 32 mpg Saturn), our marriage counselor, the physical therapist or my bait shop.

And last year, because there wasn’t any striped bass catching - or eating - allowed in New Jersey for anyone but us sportsfis….darn, sorry again, conservationists, I caught 14 keepers that totaled 87 pounds. That’s almost $300 a pound - and I didn’t even count the cost of the Boeing 747 that Vinnie and his family flew in on or that fine for the Piping Plover nesting incident down there on the beach. (I’ve gotta be honest here and tell you that my beverage expenditures this year won’t be anywhere near as much. Since the accident, the only way my wife will get into the Suburban is if she checks the coolers and the only thing she sees is Diet Coke.)

The netters want 200,000 pounds of our striped bass. At the $300 I’ve shown you we spend on every pound of stripers we catch, giving them those fish will cost the New Jersey economy $60 million dollars - just because they weren’t caught and eaten by us conservationists (nailed it that time!). All they’ll do is sell those fish to restaurants and fish stores where just about anybody could eat them. Is that right? I mean, whose ocean is it, anyway?

The way me and the guys at the Flopping Flounder feel, these are our striped bass and no one else’s. Just the other night we sat down and figured out that in the last ten years we spent a total of 43 years fishing for other species, just to give the stripers a chance to come back. Believe me, you’re talking serious sacrifice here. Did you ever have to catch a bluefish when what you really wanted was to sink your hooks - then your teeth - into a striper? No joke, we actually did that more than once. Those seven million plus citizens of New Jersey who can’t be bothered or can’t afford to catch them for themselves have gotten along without our striped bass for years and probably most of them don’t even miss them anymore. Besides, the restaurants and seafood markets can always sell those farmed striped bass/perch hybrid things - they’re almost as good, I’ve been told (of course, I don’t know that for sure because me and the other Flopping Flounders are among the few people who’re allowed to eat real striped bass fresh out of the water here in New Jersey - and, right or wrong, we’re going to do whatever we have to do and say whatever we have to say to keep it that way!)

Remember, netters are only killing fish for food, but every fish us conservationists kill might have been a trophy!It’s about time you guys in Trenton got your priorities right. Are you there to represent everybody in New Jersey, those seven and a half million people who don’t know one end of a fishing pole from another, or are you there to represent us sportsf…er, conservationists and to make sure that no one else ever gets to eat one of our striped bass? There aren’t a lot of us conservationists (bingo…twice in one day!), but we sure can yell loud - and when’s the last time you saw someone yelling at a waiter in a New Jersey restaurant because he couldn’t eat one of our stripers? Down at the Flopping Flounder we say anybody that feels that way can go to a restaurant in some other state.

Let them eat cake - or orange roughy,

"Rocky" Saxatalis

Sergeant at Arms
The Flopping Flounders

p.s. If you and your buddies over there in Trenton do the right thing and shoot this Bill down, us Flopping Flounders will be glad to send an ocean-fresh striper in your direction. It’ll make a meal you’ll never forget - and if we get our way it’ll be the only one you’ll ever legally taste in New Jersey unless you catch it yourself.

* Note: This fictional letter was created to emphasize - through exaggeration - how unsupportable we feel some of the arguments are that are being used to justify a continued ban on the consumption of striped bass by New Jersey's non-fishing citizens. There is no Flopping Flounder Fishing Club, "Rocky" Saxatalis is not a real person, his wife has neither a scarred hand nor physical therapy bills, and some Chevy Suburbans might get more than 10 mpg. Our intention wasn't - and still isn't - to offend the many responsible recreational fishermen who are committed to a future with healthy fisheries. For those who truly find our attempt at humor offensive, we offer our most sincere sympathy. "Never say a humorous thing to a man who does not possess humour. He will always use it in evidence against you." (Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree).

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