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State eases rules on fluke, porgy fishing

The Island Princess, owned by Captain Nick Manzari,

The Island Princess, owned by Captain Nick Manzari, sits docked at the Captree Boat Basin on Captree Island during a mid-day break between flounder fishing trips on Captree Island. (April 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

The fluke and porgy seasons open in New York waters Tuesday with less restrictive rules on the number and size fish anglers can take.

For fluke, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation cut the size of keeper fish this month to 19.5 inches from 20.5 last year. Anglers can keep four fluke of that size, compared with three last year. The season ends Sept. 30, same as last year.

The measures were applauded by recreational fishing interests, though some felt they didn't go far enough.

Nick Manzari, captain of the Island Princess out of Captree Boat Basin, said it remains a challenge catching fish that big, and smaller fish can be damaged.

"It's better than it was, but it's not right," he said. "It's still much too large. Catch and release is not the best thing for the stock."

"It's a step in the right direction," said Patrick Gillen, captain of the Captain Gillen II, also out of Captree.

In January, the DEC said the easing was likely because anglers didn't catch their full allotment last year. Some said that was because the larger size and smaller amount made fishing unfeasible, particularly compared with states such as New Jersey, which can catch more, smaller fluke.

"These regulation changes reflect improvements to populations of scup, black sea bass and summer flounder," said DEC Assistant Commissioner for Natural Resources Kathy Moser, who added the scup, or porgy, fishery is "particularly robust."

One lawmaker who backed the change said it will provide much-needed relief for the fishing industry.

"It looks like the stars are finally in line for us to deliver a much needed turnaround for the Long Island fishing community," Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said.

Long Island fishing interests have long bemoaned the state's considerably smaller allotment in the federal quota for core species such as fluke. All winter long, commercial boats from states such as North Carolina and Virginia, which have double-digit percentages of the quota, venture to New York waters to harvest tons of the fish, while New York commercial boats contend with just over 7 percent.

"The system is very unfair," said Assemb. Al Graf (R-Holbrook). "We got shortchanged."

He said only changes at the federal level will recalibrate the limits and make New York's share more fair.

The DEC also eased rules for porgies, or scup, doubling the number anglers can keep to 20 from 10, and extending the season to Dec. 31. The size limit remains the same at 10.5 inches for those on shore or in private boats. Those on licensed party/charter boats face an 11-inch size limit, but they can take 40 fish during September and October.

The DEC eased the black sea bass restriction to include 15 fish during a season that starts June 15 and ends Dec. 31, with a minimum size of 13 inches.

All people fishing in New York State waters must register with the DEC. There's no charge for the registration, which can be found at the DEC's website.

The full list of fishing limits can be found by clicking here.

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