On Thursday, March 15, the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) will meet at the Stafford Township Municipal Building at 260 East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin. At the request of anglers and business owners traveling from throughout the state, the Council meeting time has been pushed back to 5 p.m. and will only address scup (porgy) and blackfish.

The Council has 11 members representing recreational and commercial fishermen, fish processors, the general public and the Atlantic Coast and Delaware Bay sections of the Shellfisheries Council; a volunteer group, the council is responsible for advising the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on various issues and management programs related to marine fishery resources.

Following regional actions made by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) during their winter meetings, it’s typically the March meeting of New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council where annual regulations for the state of New Jersey are finalized after public comment.

However, Council chair Capt. Dick Herb visited The Fisherman booth at the Atlantic City Boat Show and indicated that ASMFC has yet to approve New Jersey’s plan for black sea bass, which will impact the Council’s ability to make any final regulatory decisions this Thursday on sea bass or fluke. Herb noted that another Council meeting set for April 5 would address those particular fisheries.

“This Thursday, we’re 5 p.m. at Manahawkin, and that’s not going to have anything to do with fluke and sea bass,” Capt. Herb told us by phone on March 12. “The only agenda item will be scup and tautog seasons.”

Another Council member stopping by The Fisherman booth in A.C. was Capt. Bob Rush who indicated that council advisors had not yet met to review any options for the seasons ahead as of the first week of March. While New Jersey’s proposal to extend its porgy season length from 243 days to a full year-round season was approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the state of New Jersey has actually failed to implement the change since the Council hasn’t met to memorialize since that fishery was shut down as of March 1. Hopefully by Thursday the porgy dilemma will be cleared up.

Capt. Herb noted that he expects advisors to convene by March 22 or thereabouts, so that the April 5 meeting in Manahawkin can address the season, size and bag limit for fluke and sea bass.

While the March edition of The Fisherman lists the March 15 meeting location as being Galloway Township, an official agenda received by the Secretary of State on February 15 listed the updated location as Stafford Township. To meet Sunshine Law requirements for public notification and disclosure, the State of New Jersey sends notice of Council meeting dates and locations to several local newspapers. The Fisherman recently requested to be similarly notified as well in the future, but has yet to receive an official response from the DEP.

To confirm date and time of the meeting or to learn about becoming an official advisor to the Council, call the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Fisheries Administration at 609-292-7794 or visit Marine Councils Meeting Schedule online.

If you’re unable to make the Thursday night meeting, be sure to stop by The Fisherman booth (#462) from Friday through Sunday at the Saltwater Fishing Expo at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center (just off Route 287 and the New Jersey Turnpike at Exit 10 in Edison, NJ). Show hours at this new location (formerly Somerset, now in Edison at 97 Sunfield Ave) are Friday, March 16 from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday, March 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, March 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As you walk through the front door, look for our booth towards the front of the convention center in aisle four; I’ll personally be manning the booth on Friday and Saturday and will have more details from Thursday’s Council meeting.

Also, be sure to visit www.sportshows.com before you head out to Edison for the show on Friday, as you’ll find a $2 off the weekday admission price. Get there early too – it’s been a busy show season and we’re running out of Star Rod pliers very quickly!