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2012 N.J. Fluke Regulations Decided

NJ Marine Fisheries Council approves smaller minimum, five-fish bag limit

For the first time since 2008, recreational fishermen in New Jersey will be allowed to keep summer flounder that are shorter than 18 inches.

In a 5-3 vote Thursday evening, the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council approved regulations for the 2012 season of a 17.5-inch minimum size, with a limit of five fish per day, and a 147-day season running from May 5 to Sept. 28 at the its meeting at Toms River Town Hall.

For an hour, fishermen representing groups from all parts of the state commented on the six options the council was considering. The council's summer flounder and black sea bass committee had recommended regulations that would have maintained the 18-inch minimum size that has been in place since the 2008 season and the eight-fish bag limit, with a 170-day season running from May 5 to Oct. 21.

Public comment was fairly evenly split on the options. Sentiment for staying with the 18-inch minimum pointed to a longer season that would reduce pressure on other fisheries, including black sea bass.

Those favoring the 17.5-inch minimum size commented the perception of being able to take home a smaller fish would boost business by prompting people to take more fishing trips because their chances of taking home a keeper would be increased. They also pointed to the season ending in late September as better for the fishery.

"Something to consider is the October dates carry double the weight" in how the National Marine Fisheries Service calculates catch data, said Scott Albertson, owner of Scott's Bait & Tackle in Mystic Island, Little Egg Harbor Township.

Effectively, each fish caught that month would count as two.

Those favoring the 18-inch minimum expressed concern that decreasing the minimum size would lead to New Jersey overfishing its quota. But several commenters repeated the information shared by Brandon Muffley, chief of New Jersey's Marine Fisheries division, which noted that New Jersey has done a very good job of matching its regulations to the quota in a way that has kept the state from overfishing.

Over the last 10 years, New Jersey has been on average 2 percent below its quota, Muffley said.

"The council has been successful in constraining the catch," said Ray Bogan, a Point Pleasant lawyer and long-time advocate for recreational fishermen.

At the end of the public comment, and with the committee's recommendation for the 2012 regulations as the standing motion, council member Erling Berg made a motion to replace the committee's recommendation with the option for the 17.5-inch minimum with the five-fish bag limit and a May 5-Sept. 28 season.

That motion passed 5-3, with Berg, Fran Puskas, Scott Bailey, Dr. Eleanor Bochenek and Joe Rizzo all voting in favor and Dr. Pat Donnelly, Dick Herb and Sergio Radossi voting against. 

The amended motion then passed by the same vote, with the same votes in favor and against.

paddler March 02, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Sounds great to me - most of the fluke we caught last year were throwbacks - 16.5 -17.5 inches. Never came close to limiting out. I'd rather go home with five 17.5" fish than one 18.5"! I don't think the problem is us recreational fisherman though. In the last 5 - 7 years the commercial fisherman have been drag netting closer and closer to shore.
TFK March 02, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Very happy about this regulation change. We all know the stock is relatively strong ( how many throwbacks do you catch per trip?). This revised season will allow for an early start for the Cape May area as well as a bridge to keep us anglers busy until the fall striped run. Late September/ early October fluke fishing allows anglers a shot at a larger fish as the fish come in closer to feed on the migrating baitfish. The reduction in size will be a great selling point for the party boat and charter industry. It also boosts the morale of anglers which in turn helps local businesses. There are also a number of fluke to be found early on in the back bays and this early start will allow the diehard fluke fisherman to put some flatties in the frying pan before the dog days of summer--- when ocean fluke fishing is at its peak. Good luck and have fun.
Daniel Nee March 03, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Same here. While die-hard anglers will almost always prefer extended season length over shorter size limits, it's time for some relief in the latter category. I've written as much in editorials in my weekly fishing column. While extended seasons are great, the average angler (in my view) will benefit more from an increased chance to take home a keeper on any given day during the season. Also, having grown up loving every single minute I ever spent on Barnegat Bay, it's nice that those of us who still like to fish the back will have an increased chance at taking a fresh fillet home for dinner this season.
John Zingis March 03, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Yup, also there is an important segment of the population that just don;t have the large boat to get out into the ocean where you have a better chance of getting larger fish. This could definatley lead to more anglers on the bay, at least knowing they have a chance to bring something back. Let's also not forget the potential for gas going over $5 / gallon. Bay fishing is sounding better:)
Richard Sturtevant April 16, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I couldn't keep track of the ones thrown back last year for being that .5" short I did catch the largest of 3 on the boat at 27". I was a bad end to the season for a lot of boats after the hurricane passed as well. Good luck to all the anglers this year!

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