By RICHARD DEGENER, Staff Writer pressofAtlanticCity.com | 0 comments GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Summer flounder fishermen will get more fish and a longer season this year under measures approved Thursday by the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council.
The council, choosing from among four options, picked the one that gave anglers 142 fishing days and eight fish per day. The season will run from May 7 to Sept. 25. Last year, anglers only had a 101-day season and six fish per day.
The option was the most popular with the standing-room-only crowd at the Atlantic County Library meeting room. It also led in several polls, including a vote conducted by The Press of Atlantic City. The option was picked by 55 percent who voted at pressofAtlanticCity.com.
The option that was chosen allows anglers to keep fish 18 inches or larger, the exact same size limit as 2010. Other options had smaller size limits but also came with shorter seasons and, in some cases, smaller bag limits.
During the public portion of the meeting, 39 people, many representing fishing clubs of larger blocks of anglers, pushed for the option that was chosen. Nobody spoke up for the other three options whose fishing seasons ranged from 93 to 128 days.
“It’s got to be a longer season. You can’t make money if you can’t fish,” said party boat captain Tony Bogan of the United Boatman group.
John Klug of Utsch’s Marina on Schellenger’s Landing in Lower Township said a longer season is needed to prevent gaps between seasons for other species such as black sea bass and striped bass. Klug said periods where no fishing is allowed for any top species kills business.
“If charter boats don’t run we don’t sell bait and gas,’ Klug said.
The council approved the option unanimously even though several members liked options that allowed anglers to catch smaller flounder. One option allowed one 17-inch fish and five 18-inchers, but the season was just 93 days. Another allowed one 17.5-inch fish and five 18-inchers but the season was 108 days.
“Personally, I really liked the 17.5 inch option. I’m tired of coming home and my wife says, ‘You didn’t catch dinner,’ but I had people begging me for the longer season,” Councilman Ed Goldman said.
Looking out at the crowd of die-hard anglers, party and charter-boat captains, Councilman Patrick Donnelly said they are the people who, as the saying goes, are the “10 percent of anglers who catch 90 percent of the fish.” Donnelly wanted a smaller fish for the less-skilled anglers who may need it to bring dinner home.
“I hoped to have a smaller fish. Obviously, I can’t outrun the mob out here,” Donnelly said.
Councilwoman Frances Puskas also pushed for a 17.5-inch fish.
Some had their reservations even though the option they pushed was chosen. Fishermen in the back bays, where flounder are smaller, said they were torn about the issue but eventually decided a longer season was better than the smaller size.
Paul Thompson, a party-boat captain from Cape May Court House, wanted the longer season but was concerned that studies show most 18-inch flounders are females.
“It would be nice to take home a smaller fish and maybe a male,” Thompson said.
Some felt all the measures were too conservative. When the state crafts its options it has a history of being conservative to prevent going over the limit. The state was allowed 997,000 flounder last year but Garden State anglers only caught 593,677 or 60 percent of this. Over 10 years the state’s anglers have only exceeded the target by 3 percent so the options chosen have been very accurate in guiding the final catch.
This year the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission gave New Jersey a 34-percent increase in landings, from 997,000 fish to 1,335,000 fish, and some felt it should produce a longer season and a smaller size.
Adam Nowalsky of the New Gretna-based Recreational Fishing Alliance and New Jersey’s proxy on the ASMFC noted New Jersey was allowed to liberalize its regulations by 124 percent but chose an option that brings a liberalization of 77 percent.
Nowalsky argued that conservative approaches were already taken by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and ASMFC before the flounder issue was even presented to New Jersey and he argued federal-catch surveys are unreliable.
“We have no idea what (they) will tell us if we go to full liberalization,” Nowalsky.
Council Chairman Gil Ewing said there could be more relief next year.
“Hopefully next year we can liberalize in other ways than just stretching the season,” Ewing said.
In other news, council discussed ways to implement a 40-percent reduction in black sea bass catches this year. The season started on May 22 last year. Council voted 7-2 for a June 4 start this year but has yet to decide a size limit or bag limit. There was discussion on appealing the 40-percent reduction mandated by the ASMFC.
Contact Richard Degener:
2011 Summer Flounder Season Information
May 7 to Sept. 25
18-inch minimum size
Daily bag limit of 8 fish
142 Fishing Days