When anglers were told last fall by the federal government that the summer flounder quota would be increased 30 percent for the 2011 fluke season, people jumped for joy. Finally, folks thought, anglers who spend millions of dollars on bait, tackle, fuel and accessories would be able to keep a reasonably-sized fish once again.
Unfortunately, even with the increase in quota and significant liberalizations, it appears New Jersey anglers will once again contend with a size limit so high that anglers will find themselves throwing back 50 fish (if they’re lucky) before keeping one. Back bay anglers will be hit the hardest, as usual.
The final options approved by federal regulators, which state regulators have to choose from, are:
|Size Limit||Bag Limit||Season Dates||Season Length|
|18 inches||8 fish||May 14 - Sept. 18||128 days|
|18 inches||8 fish||May 7 - Sept. 25||142 days|
|Slot Option 1:|
1 Fish @ 17.5 inches
5 Fish @ 18 iches
|-||May 21 - Sept. 5||108 Days|
|Slot Option 2:|
1 Fish @ 17 inches
5 Fish @ 18 inches
|-||May 28 - Aug. 28||93|
The longest proposed season, 142 days, keeps the summer flounder regulations at a level where an 18 inch minimum size limit is required. The only two options dropping the limit below 18 inches are slot limit options which would reduce the season length by about a month.
My take on this issue (by issue, I mean mess) is unpopular with a good many anglers, but I will shout it from the roof tops anyway: The size limit needs to drop, even if season length is sacrificed.
First off, as an avid back bay angler who grew up fishing in Barnegat Bay and the Manasquan River, it is an outrage to me that children and families have to fight unbelievable odds to bring home a keeper fish on a given summer day when they wet a line in our back bays.
I live at the Shore year 'round, own my own boat and can head out on the water whenever I please; but how about families that only get to spend a week at the Shore all season? Will they rent boats, patronize tackle shops and buy equipment – all so they can have the honor of purchasing flounder at the fish market on the way home?
Will young children head back to North Jersey, Philadelphia or New York and tell their friends about the good time they had fishing, or will they talk about sitting on a boat for hours and having to throw every fish back?
Additionally, let’s talk about that nagging little statistic called “discard mortality.” That refers to the number of fish that die each year after being de-hooked and thrown back.
In New Jersey, we throw so many fish back due to the high size limit that federal regulators have said we have nearly reached parity between the number of discarded fish that die and the number we take home for dinner. It is absolutely unconscionable from a conservation perspective – not to mention a perspective of common sense – that this many fish must needlessly meet an untimely death, all in the name of “managing” this fishery.
I won’t even delve into the fact that, since only female fish reach 18 inches or more, we’re only targeting one gender of the species.
So with that, everyone should feel free to attend the state Marine Fisheries Council meeting April 7 at 4 p.m. at the Galloway Township Library. Get up during public comment and tell the folks on the council whether 18 inches or 17.5 inches is better for you. Talk about a long season versus a slightly lower size limit.
I want a longer season, too. But I want a flounder dinner (that doesn't require a trip to the fish market) even more.