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State to close commercial fluke fishing season Sept. 1

New York State will close the commercial fluke fishery starting Sept. 1, leaving fishermen scrambling to salvage a typically busy summer season without that vital species.

The notice by the Department of Environmental Conservation sent to commercial fluke permit holders Monday said the closure, enacted to preserve a fourth-quarter fishing period from October through December, “will remain in effect until further notice.”

Recreational fluke fishing is not affected.

DEC spokesman Sean Mahar said the closure was the result of fishermen having “reached period quota limits for the popular fish” this summer. Remaining open past Aug. 31, he said, would put the fishery “at risk of closure” from October through December.

Local fishermen say they had already been straining under an exceptionally low daily quota of just 50 pounds — compared with a previous year’s 140 pounds — through most of the year, even though fluke have been relatively abundant this year.

“I’m so angry,” said Mattituck fisherman Arthur Kretschmer, 61, who operates a bottom-fish trawler on the eastern Long Island Sound. Speaking of regulators, he said, “These people have no clue how it affects people’s lives when they close down a fishery. We have nothing left to catch here.”

Mahar noted the commercial black sea bass season opens on Sept. 1 with a 50-pound trip limit. Kretschmer said his boat isn’t outfitted to haul bass traps.

Phil Karlin of Riverhead, another Long Island Sound fisherman, called the closure “absolutely, totally uncalled for,” noting that fishermen have been struggling with the low 50-pound quota.

Broader catch limits for fluke, which are set by the National Marine Fisheries Service, are the lowest in the history of the fishery’s 1993 management plan, primarily because of low population in official surveys. Fishermen who generally distrust those surveys say fluke have been unusually abundant on the waters this year.

New York has a disproportionately low percentage of the Atlantic state’s fluke quota — just over 7 percent compared to more than 20 percent for Virginia and North Carolina.

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