On March 4, New Jersey anglers will get a choice on their preferred opening day of the 2021 summer flounder season, May 22 or May 28.  Starting on May 22 the fluke season will run the same 121-day length with a closure of September 19.  However, choosing to open on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend would provide for an additional three additional days of season (124 days) and a later closing day of September 28.

“The Marine Fisheries Council will review (March 4th meeting) whether to keep everything for the fluke season status quo from 2020 or to adjust the season to 124 days from May 28 through September 28 for 2021,” said Joe Cimino who directs the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Fisheries Administration.

The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (NJMFC) will tentatively meet in a virtual setting on Thursday, March 4 at 5 p.m.  NJMFC is one of several councils and committees involved in managing fish and wildlife resources in the state and is ultimately tasked with advising the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on various issues and management programs related to marine fishery resources.

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.  To confirm the date and time of the March 4 webinar call 609-748-2020.

For each summer flounder proposal to be presented for vote on March 4, a three fish bag limit and 18-inch size limit will remain in New Jersey with special regulations also returning to Island Beach State Park (two fish at 16 inches) and the Delaware Bay (three fish at 17 inches west of the COLREGS on Delaware Bay).  Providing an earlier start to the 2021 fluke season will allow more back bay fishermen to take advantage of the early arrival of summer flounder behind the inlets in the spring, while extending the season would provide a better opportunity to close the gap between the fluke closure and reopening of fall sea bass in October (while also adding three additional days to the season).

Also expected for a final vote on March 4 are new 2021 cobia regulations.  At the January meeting of NJMFC the council had postponed a vote on recreational cobia regulations to provide more public notice.  “Because we don’t have a cobia committee or advisors, staff developed a webpage with the background information, and a request to submit comments by email,” said Jeffrey Brust, chief of the Bureau of Marine Fisheries in New Jersey.

At a special page established specifically detailing the cobia changes, anglers are being encouraged to submit comments pertaining to their preferred option, one to match Virginia’s regulations lowering the vessel limit to two fish while shortening the season by 30 days from the current measures while setting a 40-inch minimum size; the second “de minimis” option would cap both the angler and vessel limit at one fish with the minimum size limit dropped 3 inches to a 37-inch minimum with no seasonal closure in New Jersey.

Comments will be presented at the Council’s virtual meeting on March 4, 2021. The deadline to submit input via e-mail is February 25, 2021; however public attendees are welcome to provide in-person comments at the March 4 Council meeting. E-mail comments to staff biologist Michael Auriemma at [email protected].