Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Fluke and Sea Bass Update 2-28-14
The fluke and sea bass regulations are still up in the air but here is what I know at this point. The NJ Bureau of Marine Fisheries is working feverishly while trying to develop regulations that will best serve our fishermen. However, their hands are tied by the regionalization plan that was forced upon us by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The NJBMF is working the ASMFC and the other states in our region to resolve this matter. Regarding fluke, we know that Connecticut, New Jersey and New York are all in the same region and therefore must have the same size, bag limit and season length.
However, each state is allowed to select the exact dates for their seasons. We also know that it is virtually certain that the size limit will be 18” but there is now a possibility that there could be either a 4 or 5 fish bag limit. Research has shown that the harvest for our region would not be too much different with either a 4 or 5 fish limit. Therefore, it seems possible that even with a 5 fish limit, our region would be projected to stay under the quota. Season length is another issue that is being discussed. Addendum XXV approved a 128 day season but there are other factors in play and a 119 day season is being considered as well. It is too time consuming for me to explain this further.
However, at the advisors meeting on 2/27, we received some clues of what our fluke season might look like. A number of proposals were discussed and there was a consensus that we wanted to extend the season as far into September as possible. In part, that is due to the fact that sea bass season will be closed by 9/18 or sooner. At that time of year we are only allowed to keep one blackfish so if the fluke season is also closed, there will be little for inshore fishermen to fish for. Options that were favored by the advisors would have the season open on 5/17 or 5/23 and extend through either 9/21 or 9/27. Another option in play would have the season beginning on 5/23 and ending on 9/18. Traditionally, our fluke regulations are set at the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council meeting in March but we do not know if this will be resolved by then. There may have to be a special council meeting in April if the proposed regulations are not ready to be voted on by their March 6th meeting.
Regarding sea bass the news is not good. We are in a region with Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. The region over fished its quota last year and depending on which data is used, the entire region will have to cut back by either 3% or 7%. Each region is given a quota and each state within the region is given a target quota to assist in developing their regulations. In 2013 New York harvested 125% of their target, Connecticut harvested 150% of their target but New Jersey harvested only 61% of its target. New Jersey did its job in setting stringent regulations so that we did not exceed our quota but we still have to cut back by either 3 or 7%. It is unfair and hard to believe but that is the way it is under this regional plan, the states that exceed their targets are rewarded while the states that under fish their target are penalized. I can only imagine how the regional fluke plan is going to work out.
At the advisors meeting a number of options regarding sea bass were considered and a couple new ones were suggested that the NJBMF will try to develop and receive approval for from the ASMFC. It seems certain that we will have a season that begins on 5/19 with a 12 ½” size limit. We also know that the season will be closed from 9/18 or sooner through 10/17 or later. There is a strong possibility that the season could be closed by early to mid –August if the bag limit remains high. The options that were on the table at the meeting included those with 12, 15 or 20 fish bag limits. I suggested that the bag limit be reduced to 3-5 fish in July so that the season could be further extended into August or even September. The majority of advisors agreed with me on this as it would enable fluke fishermen to spice their catch with sea bass during the late season. The NJMFB agreed to develop this proposal but it is uncertain if the ASMFC will approve it.
The next meeting of the NJMFC will be held at 4 PM on March 6th at the Galloway Twp. Branch of the Atlantic County Library, 306 Jimmie Leeds Rd., Galloway, NJ. 08205. It is uncertain if the fluke and sea bass regulations will be voted on at this meeting. However, a proposal to open the winter flounder season year round is expected to be considered. The size limit and bag limit will remain the same, 2 fish at 12”.