Slot or no slot? This could become the biggest question for NJ fluke anglers in 2023.
As the weather cools and the trees shake free their final remaining leaves, the thought of fluke amongst anglers has probably already long faded away with the hot summer sun, giving way to focusing on the striped star of fall. But thinking back to 2022, New Jersey anglers faced an interesting fluke season this year with new regulations, unique bycatches and of course a bounty of fluke.
With the season in review, a full 148 days, I hope that everyone had a good summer and fluke season loaded with plenty of fresh fluke sandwiches to go around.
The New Jersey beaches in the summertime can hold ample surf flatties. Anglers breaking the surf at sun-up beat out the beach tanners and weekend warriors to get their pick at the catch. The surf fishing for fluke this season produced a lot of promising reports for the abundance of the species found close to shore. Now let’s get to the numbers; I conducted a poll through social media asking followers where they predominantly fished and 45% fished in the surf. Fluke were caught off the surf using a range of baits, from Gulp to secret tackle shop baits, they all did the trick this season.
The fluke caught off the surf ranged from doormats to postage stamps ready to be mailed out with that letter to your mother-in-law. One particularly noteworthy surf catch in 2022 was Mike Wujek’s 9.8-pound, 27.5-inch fluke caught off the Island Beach rocks; when that fish was landed it made the ground shake. This catch goes to show every angler that you never know what you’ll catch in the surf, so the experience of going out there and working for it will pay off.
Ray Kerico from Grumpys Tackle in Seaside Park has years of experience fishing and seeing the reports being brought into the shop every season and states; “Very interesting fluke season to say the least. May started out very good in the back bay, lots of slot size fish with an occasional 20-inch fish. Once the ocean fishing started in late June the slot size fish became a problem but the ‘over’ size fish were plentiful. Once we got to August the big fish came to play, lots of 5- to 7-pounders with the occasional 8-pounder mixed in.”
Time to drop down and start this drift into the reports from the fluke season out on the ocean from the boats. The early call to gear up and start the voyage to the fluke grounds excites even the most seasoned and saltiest of anglers as the promise of a true lunker being caught out there. Whether it was on a charter boat, private charter, or your personal vessel, many fluke were caught in between some dock days for storms. Reflecting on the previous poll, the remaining 55% fished predominantly off of boats this fluke season.
One boat that snared its fair share of jumbos off of the Jersey wrecks this past season was the Big Mohawk out of Belmar. Well-seasoned Capt. Matt Sosnowski of the Big Mohawk reflected on his season for his customers; “We had a decent year of fluking…many fish were landed late in the season for us, 13 pounds 12 ounces was our biggest but we had a few more in the double digit range, all and all it was a decent season.”
A lot of nicely sized fluke were picked off of the bottom while fishing off of the boats, personally reflecting on how I did when I went out during the summer; I managed good sized “over” fish on just about every trip ranging from 4 to 8 pounds, to go with extensive sunburn from the unforgiving summer sun. Another excellent captain who can catch fluke in a muddy puddle is Capt. Jerry Postorino of the FishMonger II out of Point Pleasant. “Another great but different fluke season, new regulations definitely took some getting used to,” Jerry told me, explaining how he had to make some adjustments to the way he fished. “All in all it was another productive year that got better as the season went on with plenty of nice fish to go around,” Capt. Jerry added.
A Slot Adjustment
The majority can agree that the new regulations served as a challenge this season. The slot fish in the 2022 summer flounder fishery in New Jersey was definitely an earworm topic at the tackle shops, docks, and filet tables. The regulations changed from last year’s limit of three fish at 18 inches, to two slot fish in between 17 and 17.99 inches and one over 18 inches. The New Jersey Marine Fishery Council met virtually over the spring to discuss the new regulations, with the majority of those in attendance (online members of the public and council members alike) favoring the new change in limits.
As previously mentioned, I created a poll on social media asking my followers who are avid New Jersey fluke fishermen to partake, and also wanted to collect data to study the thoughts of the New Jersey anglers in lieu of this season with so many new updates. First asking which month the anglers were the most productive for them out of a total of 184 participants 20 voted for May, 35 voted for June, 51 voted for July, 78 voted towards the August/September split. Reflecting upon those hot topic regulations for the 2022 fluke season, I asked them if they struggled getting their limit; out of 186 participants, 83 voted yes and 103 voted no.
Following this question was another asking if they liked the new regulations; out of a total of 186 participants, 67 said yes whereas 119 said no. Reflecting upon spring council meeting, I then asked if my participants attended the meeting. Out of 181 participants, 42 voted yes but the majority 139 voted no. The final question was specifically about the fluke size regulations in regards to those voted at the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council meeting; out of 184 participants, 79 voted for the old regulations of three fish at 18 inches. 41 participants voted for the current regulations, and 64 participants voted for the three fish at 17.5 inches. Thank you to all those who participated in that poll, it showed an excellent input on the New Jersey fluke fisherman.
I’m sure we are all curious with how the anglers were voicing their opinions this season on the new regulations, and if there will be an update for the upcoming season. As we wrap up 2022, the answers we’re waiting for in terms of 2023 fluke regulations at the Jersey Shore will have to wait a few more months until the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council convenes in March.
The author – when not fishing or attending Monmouth University – can be found on Instagram @jenni_jsa or helping customers at Grumpys Tackle in Seaside Park. She also spent much of 2022 doing graphic design work at The Fisherman Magazine.