Fishing regulations for summer flounder, commonly known as fluke, and sea bass have changed for the 2014 fishing season, state officials said Monday.
The minimum size for fluke is 18-inches, up a half-inch from last year. The open season on the popular bottom fish will run from May 23 to Sept. 27 with a five fish per angler possession limit.
For sea bass, fish must be 12.5-inches in length, with a 15 fish possession limit from May 19 to June 30, a 3 fish possession limit from July 1 to Aug. 31, a 15 fish possession limit from Sept. 1 to Sept. 6
and 15 fish possession limit from Oct. 18 to Dec. 31.
Much of the reasoning behind more stringent fluke regulations has nothing to do with the health of the fishery or the preferences of state officials – estimates actually suggest the fishery is at its largest and healthiest point in years – but much to do with federal management policies.
In past years, northeast and mid-Atlantic coastal states managed fluke under what is known as a "conservation equivalency" program, allowing each state to promulgate its own regulations based on a federal quota. But New Jersey was on the losing end of a multi-state vote earlier this year that led to a switch to what is known as "coastwide" regulation of the fishery – effectively, setting the same regulations from state to state in a given region.
In the past, New Jersey had been sandwiched between New York – which had extremely stringent regulations, to the point where many anglers gave up fluke fishing – and Delaware, where there were lower minimum size limits and longer seasons.
Now, the states will share regulations.