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State proposes longer fluke fishing season

New York anglers will get to fish for fluke longer this year, as state regulators propose an extension over last year's clipped season, while commercial fishermen could see a slight increase in their total allowable catch.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which enforces fishing regulations, said Monday it is recommending an uninterrupted season from May 15 through Sept. 6.

In addition, New York's commercial fluke quota is expected to be increased to 984,804 pounds this year from 821,000 last year, said DEC spokesman Maureen Wren. That could increase fishermen's daily commercial catch to 100 pounds from a current 70 pounds, Wren said.

Last year's recreational fluke season had a two-week moratorium in mid-July and it ended in mid-August, to howls of protest from the fishing community.

The DEC cited 2009's clipped season, and a larger federal fluke quota for the East Coast, in proposing this year's longer season. The state quota for 2010 is 449,000 pounds of fluke, up 23 percent from 2009, the DEC said.

The extended recreational season still must be approved by the state's Marine Resources Advisory Council at a meeting Tuesday.

The recreational size limit will remain a minimum of 21 inches, with a possession limit of two fluke per day, the DEC said.

Not everyone saw cause to celebrate.

"A few extra days, whoop-dee-do," said Mario Melito, captain of the Lady Grace V, a charter boat in Montauk. "The best fishing is in the month of September. I'd like to see the season open from mid-April to the end of September."

In a statement, DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said he hoped the state has "turned a corner now and will be returning to a more predictable fishery as the stock continues to rebuild." Meantime, he said, "We must continue to be cautious and not change size and catch limits too quickly. The last thing we want to do is lose the ground DEC and saltwater anglers have fought to gain."

The DEC said New York is continuing a federal lawsuit that takes issue with methods and data used to manage fluke. The suit claims the federal National Marine Fisheries Service "violated federal law by using outdated and scientifically unreliable data to establish fluke harvest limits along the Atlantic coast, resulting in inequitable treatment of New York anglers," the DEC said. Similar charges have been lodged by commercial fishermen.

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