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NJ FLUKE & SEA BASS OPEN THIS WEEK

The 2017 fluke season gets underway in New Jersey on May 25, while the black sea bass opener comes on May 26, shoring up a busy weekend of grand slam action at the Jersey Shore!
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  May 21, 2017
NJ FLUKE & SEA BASS OPEN THIS WEEK
As Memorial Day weekend gets underway on Friday, patrons aboard boats like the Jamaica II will have both fluke and sea bass to look forward to in terms of a holiday menu. Photo courtesy of Bogan Boat Basin in Brielle.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) made the New Jersey summer flounder regulations official on Friday, May 19 when Commissioner Bob Martin approved the following measures:

For all NJ coastal waters:
18-inch minimum size limit
Three-fish possession limit
Open season May 25 through September 5

For Delaware Bay and tributaries:
17-inch minimum size limit
Three-fish possession limit
Open season May 25 through September 5

For Island Beach State Park (Shore Mode only)
16-inch minimum size limit
Two-fish possession limit
Open season May 25 through September 5

Anglers should keep in mind that effective April 1 Delaware has been fishing under a four fish at 17-inch size limit with no closed season, while the New York season opened on May 17 through September 21 with three fish at 19 inches.

While the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) may find New Jersey has not complied with their approved plan setting the same size, bag and season length as New York and Connecticut, the NJDEP decision to move forward with their own harvest reduction initiative is expected to get the green light from the U.S. Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries.

The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council unanimously approved the three fluke bag, 18-inch size limit and 104-day season at an emergency meeting in Avalon, NJ on May 17. While the state avoided being forced to do something it’s never done before – specifically increasing the minimum size on recreational caught fluke to more than 18 inches – it’s also the first time in 7 years that New Jersey has been limited to a Memorial Day to Labor Day season. However, when the state was forced to cut the fluke season after Labor Day in 2010, New Jersey anglers were also allowed to fish for black sea bass in September.

The state’s present black sea bass season is open from May 26 to June 19 with a 10 fish bag limit, reopening from July 1 to August 31 with a two fish daily possession limit; it’s not expected to open again until later in the all with a 15 fish bag limit from October 22 to December 31. The 2017 size limit for black sea bass is 12-1/2 inches during all three open periods.

But expectations are that black sea bass regulations will worsen soon for states from New Jersey north without government intervention from way up the ladder. As reported at TheFisherman.com, on May 12 at the ASMFC spring meeting, the subject of 2017 black sea bass regulations was discussed. While initially a motion to “close the recreational black sea bass fishery in Wave 6 (November 1 through December 31) in state waters for the states of Massachusetts through New Jersey and maintain all other management measures from 2016” was proposed by David Pierce (MA) and seconded by John Bullard (NOAA), a substitute motion was proposed by Bob Ballou (RI) and seconded by Mark Alexander (CT) to “impose a five-fish possession limit for recreational black sea bass in Wave 6 in state waters for RI through NJ and maintain all other management measures for 2017.”

New Jersey Commissioner Adam Nowalsky offered an amendment “to allow for conservation equivalency” which allowed the motion to pass by a vote of 9 in favor, 2 opposed and 2 abstained. Pending approval by the ASMFC technical committee, that vote would require states like New Jersey to come up with an equivalent approach to black sea bass harvest reductions.

“We got steamrolled at the last meeting on sea bass,” noted Capt. Howard Bogan of the Brielle-based recreational fishing center while attending last week’s New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council meeting. “We really need to address that.”

In a letter addressed directly to President Donald Trump last week, Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) executive director Jim Donofrio appealed for federal intervention on behalf of coastal fishermen.

“At this time, the Atlantic black sea bass population is at the highest level recorded in fisheries’ management history. It’s more than double its rebuilding target and we have a shut down,” Donofrio noted in his letter. “Currently, arbitrary and non-scientific provisions that were implemented in the last Magnuson Act are keeping fisherman and our for hire boats (party and charter boats) from accessing this completely healthy fishery. They will be losing over a month of business facing this closure.”

Calling the restrictive measures “a huge jobs issue,” the RFA noted in the latter how captains will not be able to run their businesses for almost 30 days this September due to fatally flawed data collection, bad science, and arbitrary provisions in the federal law.

“Can you imagine, Mr. President, the Secretary of Commerce asking other businesses to shut down their retail stores for 30 days based on previous government mismanagement,” Donofrio asked the President in his letter.

Late in the day on Friday, Donofrio announced that he had confirmed a high level meeting in Washington DC to discuss the black sea bass with officials inside the Trump administration.

“Now we get a chance to make our case,” he said.

At present, Delaware also has a 12-1/2-inch size limit and 15 fish bag on black sea bass from May 15 through September 21, and October 22 through December 31. New York meanwhile has a 15-inch minimum size and three fish limit from June 27 through August 31, eight fish bag from September 1 to October 31, and a 10 fish bag from November 1 through December 31.

Get updated state-by-state regulations throughout The Fisherman region.

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