To the delight of Long Island’s bottom-fishing fans, the long awaited black sea bass season opens Monday. That’s because the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, in a move earlier this month, used what flexibility it could find within the strict federal guidelines that regulate the species to let recreational anglers take advantage of an abundance of the tasty treats.

The original starting date for black sea bass was to be July 15. The new date opens the season 18 days sooner but comes at some cost. To remain within federal guidelines that require a 23-percent reduction in the overall catch, the minimum size will increase to 15 inches, while the possession limit will be set at three fish. The possession limit increases to eight fish for September and October, and to 10 fish for November and December. The changes keep New York’s fishery consistent with the federal coast-wide management plan for black sea bass.

Some may debate whether the longer season is justified by the changes in minimum length and catch limits, but the DEC can’t be faulted in this case for doing what it could to get anglers in the game. The changes demonstrate a willingness to be flexible and consider the voice of those who lobbied hard for relief. Now, real change must come from the federal side of the fence, where lack of flexibility in current fishery management laws ties the hands of progressive thinkers.

“The federal government must fundamentally change its management of the popular and economically important black sea bass fishery,” said DEC commissioner Basil Seggos in a news release announcing the regulation changes. “In spite of abundant populations, DEC is being forced to alter the commercial and recreational fishing seasons in order to meet federal quotas. By allowing for an earlier June opening, we’re trying to strike the best possible arrangement for the recreational fishing community.”

Strong, anecdotal evidence suggests the black sea bass population is abundant but weakness in the federal government’s current population assessment caused federal scientists to exercise extreme caution when determining annual harvest limits. A new federal stock assessment should be completed this year. Hopefully, that report better reflects what anglers suspect to be the reality of the sea bass population, setting the stage for expanded opportunity in 2017.

Free fishing weekend

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Saturday and Sunday are Free Fishing Days in New York State. That means no freshwater fishing license or recreational marine fishing registry is required to fish in New York waters. All other fishing regulations still apply.

You’ll have to wait until Monday to creel sea bass, but that shouldn’t keep you off the water this weekend. Fluke action, while somewhat inconsistent, has improved at Montauk, Shinnecock, outside of Fire Island and Jones inlets, and in 25-foot depths on Long Island Sound.

Stripers, too, remain on the bite. Linesiders are hitting bunker chunks on the South Shore beaches, plugs cast after dark between Northport and Port Jefferson, and diamond jigs off Orient Point. The latter spot has been especially good for the local charter and head boats.

Schoolie blues continue to churn at the inlets and blanket Long Island Sound from Glen Cove to Southold. Porgies, meanwhile, remain on the feed off Cranes Neck, Eaton’s Neck, Horton’s Point, Greenport, Cherry Harbor and Robins Island.

Email: outdoortom@optonline.net