This is about the big one that got away.
Not a fish, but fishing, a sport and an economic engine in decline.
In recent years, the sport of saltwater fishing in New Jersey has lost more than one of every 10 jobs lost industry-wide, nearly $200 million in sales and $109 million in contributions to the state’s gross domestic product, according to the most recent economic data from the National Marine Fisheries Service. And since 2007, the industry has continued to lose ground here, according to a Star-Ledger analysis of federal data tracking anglers and the trips they take off of New Jersey’s shores.
For a morning fishing excursion a few weeks ago, the Sea Hunter out of Atlantic Highlands was less than half full, with 32 anglers on board at $42 a head. Capt. Rob Semkewyc said that was a good day for him. Factoring expenses, such as bait, marine fuel, dock fees and two deck hands, he estimates he made about $10 an hour for the 4.5-hour cruise.
“It’s tough living on the water,” Semkewyc said. “Every year it gets tougher.”
Experts point to the recession and an increase in gas prices for curbing the number of fishermen chartering boats and pleasure craft. Anglers also say restrictive catch limits make the sport less appealing for many.