Editor’s Log: Halftime Analysis - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Halftime Analysis

August 7 is quite literally the half-way point of summer, 47 days past the summer solstice, and 47 days off the official first day of fall.  When I was a kid summer was over as of Labor Day and the return to classes; I’m a lot older now, and as most would tell you, I have no class!

We typically use the cliché “summer doldrums” to refer to our local fishing at this point in the season. If I’m not mistaken, the term summer doldrums is actually a financial term referring to a sluggish midsummer stock market when investors take time away from money matters to go on vacation.  Doldrums itself is more nautical in meaning being applied to the belt of calms and light winds between the northern and southern trade winds of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  Now that we’ve both become a little more enlightened through the power of Google, I thought it would be beneficial to offer a second-half summer synopsis of some regulatory items that folks might not be aware of.

By this point in the ’23 season we all know the regs for fluke, sea bass, porgy, blackfish, black sea bass, bluefish and stripers – you’ll find them listed in the table (New York, New Jersey and Delaware) in the Report Section of this week’s issue, and they’re practically engrained in our minds at this point.  But we’ll also see a few late summer visitors in the region that come with their own set of coastal regulations that should be remembered should you encounter one.  I bring this up after seeing a photo shared on Facebook in mid-July of an angler standing on the dock holding a pretty sizable red drum (redfish) that was caught about 8 miles out of Cape May.

First off, like striped bass, red drum can’t be targeted or retained from federal waters outside of 3 miles; secondly, keep in mind that there’s a one redfish bag limit with a slot-size requirement of 18 to 27 inches.

Spanish mackerel become quite prevalent during this latter half of summer, often available to surfcasters while also setting up on the nearshore lumps and bumps.  In both New Jersey and Delaware, the minimum size limit for Spanish mackerel is 14 inches with a bag limit of 10 fish.  Similarly, king mackerel has a minimum size of 23 inches with a three fish bag.

Cobia is another seasonal visitor at the Jersey Shore that many folks might not realize have a size and bag until it’s too late (too late being on the floor of the cockpit with a 2-1/2-ounce bucktail hanging from its maw).  Remember that there’s a 37-inch size limit for cobia, and you’re allowed one per angler but only one per vessel.  And yes, they’re about the one of the tastiest fish you’ll find!

You probably have the weakfish limit (one at 13 inches) memorized, but did you know that New Jersey considers speckled trout the same thing as weakfish?  I’ve brought this up before the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council numerous times over the past several years; the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is apparently working on the regulatory change to separate the two species, but that fix is currently in legal review (also known as bureaucratic purgatory).  If you catch a speck in New Jersey, you’re allowed one at 13 inches, same as weakfish; on the other hand, in Delaware there’s a 12-inch size, no bag limit and no closed season.

Cod limits are also expected to change at some point soon, but until further notice it’s still a 21-inch size limit, no bag and no closed season in New Jersey.  When it changes, we’ll let you know, and so will the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, once it passes out of NJDEP purgatory of course.

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