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Final 2011 Fluke Regulation Options Leave Much to be Desired

Under 18 inch size limit would decrease season length by more than one month.

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.

My reasoning?

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.

Kevin Doyle March 26, 2011 at 08:19 PM
MAybe for one (or more)year we should ban the bottom vacuming of the migrating fish for commercial sale. This process continues to do more damage to the replenishment of the breeding stock, than all the recreational fisherman combined. Does any one remenber the last time they saw a school of wheat fish ( Not since the early 80's when they netted the migration from Delaware Bay to sell them for cat food.).
John Zingis March 28, 2011 at 01:00 PM
Sorry Bill, but first I want to say that I will not stoop to tha language and representations that you used in the response. I will only respond to my experiences and facts that I'm aware. Let's begin with catching undersized fish. Yes I agree that there is some mortality, but an experienced angler and one who cares about recreational fishing will take the time to carefully release fis into the water to maximize their survival rate. That is a fact. Secondly, I participate in the catch and tag program through the American Littoral Society where I tag many fluke, release them carefully in an effort to gain scientific data. Fishermen contribute hundreds and thousand of dollars each year to fund programs. Check out the Jersey Coast Anglers Association who supported additional fluke research by world renowned scientists. Did you research that before yoru comments. This research perhaps provided NMFS with data to allow more recreational catch this year. Another fact. As far as the rest of your comments, I just have to let them go, just like the many fluke I do catch and release successfully. Thanks for you comments.
John Zingis March 28, 2011 at 01:02 PM
I agree, there's a hugh problem with weakfish populations, but I've found that it may lie with more biological reasons then commercial fisherman. This is not to say that commercial fishermen have depleted stock in Delaware Bay, but non the less it's a problem. I don;t even fish for weakfish anymore due to these circumstances. Let's hope for the best.
Philip Welsh March 28, 2011 at 02:01 PM
This is disapponting news for sure. Based on evidence that the 18" and larger fish are primarily female, wouldn't it make sense to adopt a slot that allows at least one fish 15 t0 18 inches? Also, the start of the season is to be questioned. Until the fish move to the ocean reefs, back bay fishing after the first couple of weeks is disinteresting and leads to extreme numbers of smaller and growing flounder being thrown back damaged. So, why not open the season for three weeks in May and close it again in June and then extend it until October 15 or so? Closing the season in early to mid September deprives us of some great ocean fishing and could bridge the gap (so to speak) between flounder and striper fishing seasons. Finally, learning how to dehook and return fish to the sea as safely as possible is a must for all fishermen.
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