How I Sea: Rocco Costa
Rocco is a 23-year-old construction manager and recreational fisherman from Long Island, NY. He’s fished in the Great South Bay, Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean since he was a kid. Anytime Rocco can get some free time he heads out to sea. Fishing is a part of who he is and how he sees the world.
What started your love for the ocean?
My Pop Pop (Grandpa) used to take my brother and I out all the time to fish on his boat. We would go out on the Sound every weekend. I remember the first fish I ever caught, it was a massive Striper, easily 50 lbs! I’m just kidding, it was actually a Striped Bass that I caught when I was 22 months old with a Spider-Man fishing rod. The fish was almost as big as I was back then. Ever since that catch I was hooked. I wanted to be out on the water all the time.
Have you seen the sizes of fish you catch change, since you were a kid?
I wouldn’t say that I’ve seen much of a size difference in my catches over my , but i have noticed that number of larger fishes has definitely decreased across the board for all species in our area.
How have the rules and regulations changed over the years for the fish you’re going for? And in your opinion, how well enforced are these rules?
There are rules? Of course I know the rules because I’m a responsible fisherman, I believe that we need more enforcement of our regulations by authorities such as the DEC and CoastGuard. I say this because I have heard of poaching crimes on the water that go unpunished. I’ve only been boarded twice by the DEC in New York, which is absolutely ridiculous in comparison to the amount of times I’ve been out fishing. Clearly tons of fish are being taken illegally and there’s not much anyone is doing about it.
I also believe that most of the regulations should be reformed. I would like to see them incorporate the common sense of reasonable fisherman like myself into the science. Fishermen spend more time on the water than anyone else, and so I like to think we know more about what’s going on with the fish and the state of the ocean. For instance I believe in very small creel limits but long seasons, versus more of a “run and gun” strategy where the season is short but people are permitted to keep more fish. This would allow fishermen to target any fish they wanted but only harvest a small amount. Something like this may require more monitoring of catches to ensure that people are sticking to the set limit, but I think it would be worth it.
Regulations have changed since I’ve started fishing where creel limits on fish like Seabass used to be 25 per person, where now they’re between 5 and 10. And Porgy’s were a ridiculous, 40 fish per person. This trend went straight across the board and seemed to be unsustainable. Nowadays regulations are a little more in tune with things such as when fish are vulnerable and need to be left alone, and with more reasonable limits.
Have you seen more people fishing and boating where you go, or less in general?
I think the number of boaters out on the water has decreased due to the economic problems and high fuel prices since 2010, but the recent rebound in the economy and drop in fuel prices may lead to a spike in that number. On the fishermen side, I believe there has been a steady increase in the amount of people fishing for the entirety of my career.
Last Question: What’s one thing that you think anybody could do differently in their lives to help protect the ocean?
I think there’s a pretty simple answer to that. Just be respectful wherever you are. Clean up your garbage because 9/10 times it’ll end up in the ocean. And if your a fisherman like me, even though the law might not be enforced that doesn’t mean that you’re above it. Being respectful on the water means not taking more than your share of fish, and letting these animals keep growing so that future generations can enjoy the ocean like I do right now.
Rocco is now a citizen of the ocean with The TerraMar Project, and hopes that others will follow in his footsteps to keep Long Island’s waters healthy.