New York State will open the recreational season for black sea bass on Monday, nearly three weeks earlier than last year, while reducing the number of fish anglers can keep during the summer to three from a former eight. The commercial fishery remains closed.
New regulations by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which manages New York fisheries, also include an increase in the allowable size of keeper black sea bass to 15 inches from the current 14 inches.
The regulations have been anxiously awaited by the charter and party boat industry, which have complained of generally tighter fishing limits in recent years.
Black sea bass are considered among the most plentiful fish in local waters, but commercial and recreational fishing for them have been closed because data on the species stock is widely considered to be poor and overfishing occurred last year.
After a summer season of three keepers, the regulations on Sept. 1 change to allow anglers to keep eight fish, then 10 fish during November and December.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos urged federal fisheries regulators to “fundamentally change” management of the black sea bass fishery.
“In spite of abundant populations, DEC is being forced to alter the commercial and recreational fishing seasons in order to meet federal quotas,” he said in a news release.
The DEC in May shut down the commercial fishery for black sea bass for June, a widely unpopular move that came as the fish were moving into local waters.
DEC later said it was “committed” to reopening the commercial fishery early if fishing boats had not exceeded May quotas. The DEC has said it is awaiting fishing reports to determine whether it should open the fishery early.
One charter boat captain said he was “glad” the recreational season opened 19 days earlier than last year, but expressed concern about the new 15-inch size limit.
“How many sea bass are you going to catch before you catch a 15-inch fish?” said Steve Witthuhn, a Montauk charter boat captain.
“The regulations to go bigger are not better,” he said. “It’s going to hurt the fish, because a 15-inch fish is a sizable fish.”
State regulators moved to tighten regulations on black sea bass to reach a mandated 23 percent reduction in this year’s catch.