Just days before most anglers hope to start their 2013 fluke season, new regulations have been approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) for the summer flatties. While the new season dates, size limits and creel allowances are still a bit on the stingy side, recreational anglers should find this year's stipulations generally tolerable -- and more liberal than they might have been if not for some late-inning efforts by representatives of the state Department of Conservation.
New York's new fluke regulations drop the size limit for summer flounder a half-inch to 19 inches, provide an open season of May 1 through Sept. 28, and maintain the daily creel limit at four fish per angler.
Earlier proposed regulations would have shortened the season considerably and possibly lengthened the minimum size limit. That's because New York exceeded its 2012 fluke quota. Other East Coast states, with the exception of New Jersey, did not fill their quotas last year and, having set conservative 2013 regulations, left a combined 809,147 pounds of unused summer flounder quota on the table which, according to the ASMFC, equated to 266,781 fish.
At a special AFMSC meeting held Wednesday, a change to the management plan was passed allowing states to share their unused quotas. That helped New York lighten up just a bit on its minimum length. To make it all work, however, New York had to give one of its open season dates to New Jersey, which was counting on some of the same unused quota to mitigate the 25 days of fluke season they would lose for having over-harvested last year.
One concern with the new regulations is what happens if fluke quotas are exceeded again? At this point, only 10,916 pounds of unused fluke quota remain as a hedge against overfishing the species along the East Coast. But with fishing effort reduced since superstorm Sandy struck last October, the commission felt this year's take would be down a bit. No doubt, the need to help keep businesses that depend on a successful fluke season afloat also played in the decision.
Basically, we dodged a bullet with fluke, and for that local anglers should be happy. With porgy regulations we did even better this year. The season for scup will run May 1 through Dec. 31, the size limit will drop one-half inch to 10 inches and the daily creel limit expands by 10 to 30 fish. Additionally, anglers fishing aboard open and charter boats can take up to 45 fish each from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31.
West End stripers, flounder
Signs that spring fishing season is ready to pop: The Island Current Fleet has been limiting out on flounder trips inside Eastchester Bay. Flattie scores have also showed some improvement in Sheepshead, Great South and Huntington bays.
School stripers have invaded the Jamaica Bay flats and are inhaling small swim shads. Capt. Nick Sevene, sailing his Oceanside charter vessel No Time out of Oceanside, culled a boat limit of eight stripers on Tuesday using clam chum and whole clam baits.