Striper action may be just getting started but many fishermen are already looking ahead to the opening of fluke season on May 17. This year's regulations for the delectable summer flatties allow anglers to keep five fish per day with an 18-inch minimum size limit and a season stretching through Sept. 21.

Many anglers I've spoken with this spring find the current fluke regulations "tolerable" but believe we can still do better -- and that New York needs to protect gains it has made in recent years which have seen a shift to regional management of the species and a more equitable distribution of the summer flounder quota in the tri-state area.

With those goals in mind, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) have each reintroduced "Fluke Fairness" bills to the Senate and House of Representatives. These companion bills aim to permanently level the playing field for all fluke anglers along the East Coast by requiring federal regulators to use the best available science and most up-to-date data when making fluke management decisions.

When a prominent member of the Senate and first-term congressman see eye-to-eye on the issue it reflects strongly the sentiments of their constituents. New Yorkers have seen a long, hard battle to redistribute fluke allocations under a regional plan that reflects current stock trends and a northward shift of the fluke population, which is now squarely centered in our waters.

"Some of my best memories of growing up on Long Island include spending all day fishing for fluke on Great South Bay," said Zeldin in a phone interview Wednesday. "Back then, the minimum size wasn't so large and you could almost always take a few home. I want kids today to have that same experience, and I want our local party boats, charter skippers and tackle shops to benefit from the abundance of fluke now in our waters. By requiring use of the most current data and having New York, New Jersey and Connecticut abide by similar fluke regulations, the regional management approach brings fairness to everyone involved. We need to ensure it becomes the rule, not the exception."

Kathy Heinlein, president of the Captree Boatman's Association, labeled reintroduction of the Fluke Fairness bills as "phenomenal news," noting the current regional management plan is temporary. "Some New York anglers will fish out-of-state if the regulations favor New Jersey or Connecticut," said Heinlein, "so it's vital the rules be balanced, fair and permanent."

"Unfair catch quotas are a left hook to so many Long Island anglers and that's why it is crucial to pass the 'Fluke Fairness Act,'" summed up Schumer. "[This bill] will benefit anglers who have long been restricted by unfair regulations dictated by outdated data."

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Permits and tournaments

The Kayak Fishing Classic at Jamaica Bay, a qualifying event for the Hobie World Championships to be held on Shang Lake, China, this November, is scheduled for May 14-17. Visit captainkayak.com to enter.

A New York State night sportfishing permit or 4-wheel drive beach vehicle permit is needed for parking and access at some popular state beaches and parklands. Purchase these, or a Camp Hero Access permit, by April 30 or you'll have to wait until after Labor Day to procure them. Contact NYS Parks at 631-321-3515.

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