Capt Joe Paradiso
April 23, 2013

The Atlantic States Marines Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Black Sea Bass, Scup and Summer Flounder Management Board met via conference call on Wednesday, April 17 and approved Addendum XXIV to the Summer Flounder Fishery Management Plan.

The Addendum allows New York and New Jersey to utilize potential liberalizations that were not enacted by other member states. As a result of the action, New York will have the opportunity to reduce their summer flounder size limit to 19 inches with a season of May 1 – September 29 and a four-fish bag limit. If approved by the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council, New Jersey may extend the currently proposed season of May 18 to September 16, five fish at 17.5 inches by up to 11 days.

“This is terrific news for New York’s saltwater anglers in 2013 as they’re finally seeing a return to more reasonable size limits for fluke,” said Jim Hutchinson, president of the New York Sportfishing Federation.  “For a resource like fluke which is not overfished with no overfishing occurring, to continue to face reduced days on the water and staggering size limits is truly a hard pill to follow for anglers in the New York marine district.”

Last year there was a significant coastwide underage in harvest of summer flounder, however, New York and New Jersey were still required to take reductions in 2013 as a result of the current process. Every state except New Jersey will be more liberal in 2013.

“Other states who were under the allowable catch in 2012 have essentially lent that unused quota to New York and New Jersey in 2013, so we’re definitely not out of the woods for the future,” Hutchinson said.  “If the overall management process is not changed before 2014, the recreational data collection this season could end up hitting us twice as hard in 2014 if New Yorkers are said to fish over our seasonal limits, given that we have our regular quota to deal with and now this unused quota from other states.”

RFA and the New York Sportfishing Federation are hopeful that NOAA Fisheries recreational data collection efforts in 2013 adequately capture the reduced effort that is likely given the devastation of Superstorm Sandy and what it will mean in reduced access and participation.  Historically, recreational catch estimates report higher landings when states have more fishing days, even despite stretches of bad weather typical of early spring or late summer periods. The 2014 summer flounder quota is presently slated for an approximate 10% reduction, although a stock assessment is now underway.  Negative outcomes of the scheduled assessment could result in an even more tightly regulated fishery in 2014.

“We’re rolling the dice a bit here, but in terms of the fluke resource, lowering of the size limit in any way will help reduce release mortality and theoretically result in lower overall weight of the recreational catch,” Hutchinson said. “It will surely help our recreational fishing community in 2013.”

Hutchinson said the push for quota allowances from other states was heavily lobbied in New York by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council representative Tony Dilernia, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), in particular Jim Gilmore of the state’s Bureau of Marine Resources.  “It took a lot of wrangling and open dialog amongst the various ASMFC commissioners, but Mr. Gilmore fought hard to improve the 2013 fluke season in New York, kudos to him.”

“We’re very pleased to once again see Sen. Schumer holding managers’ feet to the fire on this issue of angler access, it’s good to have a great friend like him in Congress,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

NYDEC has also announced that black sea bass fishing season will run from July 10 to December 31 with a 13 inch minimum size and an eight fish bag limit. These limits are better than previously thought since all states were originally required to take a 32 percent reduction in 2013 harvest but an analysis of new data show that only a 24 percent reduction is needed.

Scup (porgy) fishing season will also see an improvement for 2013 with a 10 inch minimum size, 30 fish bag limit and season from May 1 to December 31 for all anglers. Party and charter boats will have a bonus of a 45 fish bag limit from September 1 to October 31.