Recreational fluke fishing season delayed to May 17, but size limit lowered

A file photo of fluke taken on Jan.

A file photo of fluke taken on Jan. 13, 2014. State regulators have adopted new rules for 2014 recreational fluke fishing, setting in place a season that starts May 17, 16 days later than last year's but which allows the taking of more, slightly smaller fish. (Credit: Chris Ware)

State regulators have adopted new rules for 2014 recreational fluke fishing, setting in place a season that starts May 17 -- 16 days later than last year's opening -- but allowing the taking of more, slightly smaller fish.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation on Tuesday said it filed the regulations on an emergency basis, allowing the rules to take effect immediately, even as they undergo a required 45-day comment period upon their May 14 publication in the state register.

The DEC had to file the regulations on an emergency basis because approval of the plan came only in March from a federal fisheries commission. Had the emergency regulations not been filed, last year's rules would have remained in place, including a May 1 season start -- which could have reduced next year's quota.

Some Long Island fishing interests say the later season has wrought havoc on the industry, but regulators say it's a vast improvement over what could have been.

The DEC said in a news release that this year's season will allow anglers to potentially catch 50 percent more fluke than would have been allowed this year under the traditional system. Under the new approach, anglers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have the same May 17 start date and can take five fish per day of 18 inches and longer. Last year, New Yorkers could take four fish at 19 inches. The fluke season ends Sept. 21.

"This was a big victory for New York and a positive step for our recreational fishing industry," DEC commissioner Joe Martens said.

But Long Island's North Shore traditionally has its best fluke run in early May, fishermen say, and the late start means lost revenue.

"Me and my son are tied to the dock right now . . . we don't have anything to fish for," said Capt. James Joseph of the James Joseph II in Huntington, who estimated his 16-day losses at $39,000. "Nobody would have supported the regional [approach] if we knew it would start on May 17," he said.

But some boats will be fishing. Those who bought an allotment at the annual research set-aside auction can fish for thousands of pounds of fluke, below current size limits, until the official season opens. Among the boats that advertise it: the Laura Lee in the Captree Boat Basin and Capt. Lou Fleet in Freeport, which has advertised a May 1 start day for its season. Also under the new rules, the black sea bass season opens on July 14-- five days later than last year -- and runs through Dec. 31, with eight fish allowed daily at 13 inches.

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