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Changes to New Jersey’s 2018 tautog and porgy seasons are announced, though anglers will have to wait until April 5 to learn about this year’s improvements to the black sea bass and summer flounder seasons.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  March 16, 2018
When the original ASMFC conservation measures on tautog began in 2017, many local wreck fishermen were a bit nervous about what was to come; on March 15, New Jersey toggers got some good news with a 2% reduction in the 2018 season.

The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) met at 5 p.m. on March 15 at the Stafford Township Municipal building where they took action on porgy and tautog for the 2018 season, while hinting at good things in store for summer flounder (fluke) and black sea bass in the coming weeks.

Council members approved what turned out to be rather minimal reductions (2%) in the recreational tautog fishery for 2018 to meet new conservation mandates by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The New Jersey fishery is presently closed, but will reopen as scheduled on April 1 with a four fish bag and 15-inch size limit.

Once made official by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the following fishable days and bag limit will be in effect for the rest of the 2018 tautog season with a 15-inch size limit.

Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 (4 fish)
Apr. 1 to Apr. 30 (4 fish)
Aug. 1 to Nov. 15 (1 fish)
Nov. 16 to Dec. 31 (5 fish)

Council also approved measures which would keep the porgy season open 365 days a year with a 50 fish bag and 9-inch size limit; while the porgy season in New Jersey closed on February 28, the Council-approved opening still requires review and sign-off by the NJDEP which could take a few weeks or more. No timetable for the reopening was offered at the Thursday night meeting, but anglers can expect that it occurs sometime this spring.

On the fluke front, the Council reported that ASMFC had approved New Jersey’s proposal for an increase in the length of season; the ASFMC technical committee also approved what one NJDEP representative said would amount to a “significant increase in RHL (recreational harvest limits)” for the 2018 season for recreational black sea bass. However, the Council’s advisory committees must first meet to review the approved options sometime in the next week, after which the Council will convene again on April 5 to review options with the public. That meeting will take place at the Bay Avenue Community Center at 775 East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin, NJ at 5 p.m.

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which is responsible for conservation and management of black sea bass outside of 3 miles and within the federal 200-mile limit of the Atlantic Coast, recently voted to keep federal waters open for recreational sea bass harvest from May 15 through December 31, which should also provide a viable target species for anglers once New Jersey’s fluke season comes to a close sometime in September.

There were only a couple of dozen attendees at the Thursday night meeting; the March meeting is typically the most well-attended meeting of the year as anglers and business owners from throughout the state hope to express their thoughts on the start and end dates of the annual fluke season. However, as Council chairman Dick Herb noted, “It’s still coming down from the sausage machine that’s above us.”

You can expect the crowds to return to Manahawkin on April 5 when Council reconvenes at the Bay Avenue Community Center to finalize the 2018 fluke and sea bass regulations for New Jersey.

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