How I Sea: Tim Doelger

Source: The TerraMar Project - July 6, 2017 in TMP

How I Sea: Tim Doelger
Photo: Tim Doelger

Tim is the Founder and CEO of TruFishing, Inc, a product focused on enhancing the experience of all sectors of recreational and competitive fishing by allowing anglers to document, measure, and share their catches via social media.

How long have you been fishing on the East Coast for? And what kind of fishing do you mostly do?

I’ve been fishing since I was in kindergarten.  A handful of friends would often come and we would carve wooden poles, tie up some line, get some worms and head off through the woods to the pond where we would catch carp, catfish and the occasional sunny. My father also had a wooden Crist Craft (34’) and we’d often go trolling off shore here in NJ for tuna, bluefish and whatever else was biting.

Photo: Tim Doelger

I loved the water so much, I joined US Navy’s Nuclear Submarine Force. Listening to all the fish from the boats sonar room was one of my favorite things to do.

After my tour, I always had part-time jobs as a mate on the 100’ type party boats here in the area. I’d teach kids and adults on the sport of fishing and help them with their techniques and provide some humor when things were slow.

Annually, I like to make a trip out to the Otter Banks, NC to do some “real fishing” as I called it – just because you can always catch such a wide variety of fish there just 20 or so miles off the beach.

Today, you can usually find me casting a surf pole off the NJ beaches, looking for striped bass, bluefish and fluke.

What made you want to start fishing? And do you still have the same motivations for fishing today as when you started?

Curiosity of what was down ‘there’ was the basis for my interest in fishing. That same curiosity is what motivates me today. More motivating is getting others excited about what may be out there lurking in the deep and giving them some tips along the way of how to enjoy fishing and do it responsibly and safely.

A more recent motivation for me has become the idea of how we can get more kids and families involved in the sport. I’ve noticed a rather steep decline in fishing participation and I’m pretty motivated to change that curve. The way we do that with my company TruFishing is by enhancing the experience and making the sport more accessible

My highest motivation personally and professionally is to level the playing field in terms of measuring, comparing and/or competing in the sport of fishing – yielding heavily toward responsible fishing and sustainability.

By capturing the experience of catching a fish on video and layering in the actual data of the catch (pull per second, length of battle, location and other sensor data), we can not only level the playing field – we can enhance the experience and let non-participants get a first-person view of others on the water.

Gamifying the sport is the goal.

How have you seen the fishing in your local spots change (if at all) year to year? Is there more of certain species and less of others, or has it been consistent? Are fish getting smaller or larger?

Well, I have many answers to this question.

For one, the average lifespan of a local bait & tackle shop today is only 3 years. They’re getting hit hard by the big box retailers, so it’s hard to build a relationship with your local fishermen nowadays.

Participation levels are way down compared to what they used to be – specifically in youth. My guess is that today’s generations are playing on their social network gaming platforms and are more visually-driven in their interests.

As for fish in my area: we used to catch fluke all the time that were keepers. Today, 1 out of 10 if you’re lucky is a keeper. Whiting and ling – nowhere to be found in the quantities I recall when I was younger.


Photo: Tim Doelger with a Salmon caught on rod and reel in Alaska.

What do you think is the biggest threat to your local waters and ocean? And why?

Here at the Jersey Shore, there seems continual beach replenishment that effects the shore casting sector.

We’ve also had some Box Jellyfish in the back bays and that has scared off some jet ski and swim population.

This time of year, we always see the masses of bunker that die on the shoreline due to low oxygen and water temperature issues.

On the pollution front though, I’ve never seen the water cleaner.

Are fishing regulations enforced where you fish in your opinion, for recreational fishers? And if not how regularly do you think people catch fish over their limits?

We’ve seen a small but steady rate of enforcement over the years on recreational fishing boats. For the surf-casters, there’s little enforcement and the “die-hard” fishermen in the area seem to be the best police.

One issue I’d like them to enforce: people snagging fish with treble hook casting. Each year when the blues and strippers run, I can’t tell you how many people I see get hurt or in a fight over this technique. It just seems un-sporty to me.

What do you think could be done (if anything) to better manage recreational fishing?

Well, here’s a paradigm shift for you: How about rewarding folks for responsible fishing activity? For example, imagine if you could earn “points” as a reward for responsible catch and release. Or imagine if you could reward people for showing and releasing their catch in a responsible way.

This idea is what we are focusing our attention to at TruFishing: how can we shift the model so your responsible activity yields some sort of reward or incentive. We’re doing this by capturing the experience, measuring things like pull, distance, location, species, length, etc. – and then giving the angler the tools to show their network, sponsor (or nobody) the footage through their social media accounts.

We envision a day where you can get rewarded by capturing and showing your responsible physical attributes of a catch. It’s a win-win in our view. Win for the angler because they get some reward; win for conservation and the recreational fishing industry because only responsible fishing will be rewarded.

What’s one everyday thing that you think recreational fishers could do better to conserve the marine environment?

They could participate in TruFishing. This is not meant to be a promotional statement by any means, but really, if we got anglers and newcomers into the TruFishing sport, it would then become a very transparent and a viral way to engage with like-minded anglers and help spread the word on a new paradigm shift coming to our sacred industry.

Check out Tim’s work at: www.trufishing.com

How I Sea is a new effort by The TerraMar Project to dive into the minds of our global ocean community. We highlight opinions on conservation issues such as: marine pollution, overfishing, drilling, climate change, marine protected areas, scientific discoveries, and much more. Stay tuned for more.

Sign up today to become a citizen of our global ocean community and sign up for your very own passport to the world’s ocean by visiting us at: www.theterramarproject.org 

Photographs used with permission of owner.

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