From todays Sunday NY Times :
You Get a Line, I'll Get a Pole . . . and We'll Get a Summons?
October 5, 2003
By RICHARD LEZIN JONES
THE kingfish were biting. Croakers, too.
"Croakers are good eating," said Rocky Davis, veteran angler and newly minted civic crusader, standing on the beach spooling fishing line into the Atlantic. "They call them hardheads
Funny, said a visitor who had doffed his sneakers and rolled up his khakis to join Mr. Davis in the surf, that's what my mother used to call me.
Mr. Davis began to let out a chuckle when his fishing rod suddenly bent into a parabola. He trained his gaze on thespot where the line disappeared under the water. A catch? Mr. Davis narrowed his eyelids, considered the tension onthe line and began slowly winding in another croaker.
He had hoped for something more on this afternoon - some of those kingfish, perhaps, or some stripers. But after decades as a fisherman, Mr. Davis, 50, knows better than to
hang too much on hope. He's only a few days into his work as a civic activist, though, and he's still trying to find balance between exuding the confidence of a true believer
and the harsh experience of someone who has seen plenty of fishing hooks come out of the water empty.
And it is fitting that it was fishing hooks that
inadvertently started Mr. Davis's crusade in the first place. Last week, the Brigantine City Council was set to consider a measure that would have banned surf fishing along much of the beach in this island town of 12,000, five
miles and a world away from the casinos of Atlantic City.
Concerned that surfers and other beachgoers might be injured by errant fishing hooks - two people were hooked this summer - Councilman Robert Solari drafted an ordinance to prohibit fishing "from any beach designated as a surfing, kayak beach, bathing beach or sailing/catamaran beach."
With those words, a movement was born. Anglers in this part of South Jersey - suddenly members of a newly persecuted class - shed their famous reserve and mobilized. Petitions were drafted. Political strategy sessions filled Internet
bulletin boards formerly used to share the best fishing holes. Town meetings were packed with the waterlogged members of this beachbound subculture.
"I've never been to any of those meetings before," said Mr. Davis, a sturdily built 6-footer with a round face, shy smile and brawny hands that betray his work as a boiler operator in the Atlantic City courthouse.
Mr. Davis, a reluctant advocate, found himself in on the action, signing a petition or two, sharing gossip with friends about what was going on, all the while trying not to let any of this cut into his valuable fishing time.
Despite his efforts to prevent the ban, Mr. Davis said that he feared his cause was all but lost, that he and his brethren were tilting their reels at windmills. After all, these kinds of battles often play out across the region, and Mr. Davis knows who usually wins.
"The surfers they get their way," Mr. Davis said. "Their daddies are the politicians and the mayors. They go home and say, `Aw, man, this fisherman snagged me.' "
So the anglers began thinking of negotiating a compromise. "You can't stop fishing here," said Tom Bell, 49, an Atlantic City fire inspector who frequents the Brigantine beaches. "Fishermen have been coming here for 200 years."
Where, Mr. Bell wondered, was the middle ground? "It's not just Brigantine," he said. "It's the whole country. Whatever we do, we have to go to extremes."
But something strange happened on the way to the edge. Mr. Davis, Mr. Bell and others found that they were less like the pedestrian croaker and more like the regal kingfish. A
truce, with no new fishing restrictions, was reached. Council members put off the proposed ban and said that they would let anglers and surfers try to reach a permanent accord on their own.
WHAT was headed for municipal brinksmanship suddenly became a quiet negotiation in which both surfers and fishermen seem to think that something can be worked out.
"I don't want to see people get hurt," said Sven Peltonen, 24, a lifeguard who was kite surfing recently. "But I don't want to see people's rights taken away. I don't think that
banning fishing is the answer."
Down the beach a bit, the unlikely crusader Rocky Davis had already begun to bathe in this new political worldview.
"It's all about the waves," he said, tossing a fresh line into the ocean. "They want the wave and we want that wave,