Fluke fishing in New York waters will be a little easier -- courtesy of a half-inch decrease in the size limit -- as the state ushers in new regulations for the season that starts May 1.
Local anglers can keep four fluke of 19 inches each, a slight drop from last year's 19.5-inch limit, fishing regulators announced Monday.
The season will extend to Sept. 29, one day shorter than last year's.
Fishermen welcomed the changes. New York faced a possible increase in the size limit because it exceeded its quota last year.
Steve Witthuhn, captain of the Montauk charter boat the Top Hook, said the half-inch reduction could mean a keeper for every 10 fish caught compared with last year's one-in-20.
"It will help us a lot," he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who pushed for the eased restrictions, agreed.
"A half-inch decrease in size limit and a full May to September season will make a huge difference to recreational anglers and the charter boat industry, and is a step in the right direction of ending the inequality that exists between New York and its neighbors," Schumer said in a statement. "This compromise is fair, and New York's anglers fought long and hard for it."
The state Department of Environmental Conservation worked with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in January to hammer out the new regulations. The DEC said the slight easing of regulations was due in part to other East Coast states that underharvested their quotas in 2012 sharing what would have been a greater catch limit for 2013. At one point New York hoped the fluke size could be reduced to 18.5 inches this year, but the limit was finalized at 19 inches.
"The improvements to fluke fishing [are] good news for New York anglers and the saltwater fishing industry who have been shortchanged for many years by an inadequate quota relative to the size of the fishery in New York," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said.
The DEC also released new recreational fishing limits for two other staple fish stocks in New York. The black sea bass fishing season will be July 10 to Dec. 31, with a 13-inch minimum size and an eight-fish daily catch limit. The rules are more restrictive than last year's, but far looser than expected because overfishing last year was expected to reduce this year's haul by 32 percent, the DEC said.
The limits are less restrictive than expected since all states were originally required to take a 32 percent reduction in the 2013 harvest but an analysis of new data shows that only a 24 percent reduction is needed.
The porgy [or scup] season will open May 1 and continue through Dec. 31, with an improved 10-inch size limit and a daily catch quota of 30 fish, the DEC said.