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Proposed changes for 2016 N.J SW fishing

<span style="font-weight: bold">January 7, 2016
By: RICHARD DEGENER, Staff Writer



STAFFORD TOWNSHIP _ Southern New Jersey anglers gave hearty support this week to a plan that would boost fluke fishing in the Delaware Bay.
A crowd of about 50 anglers showed up at the Thursday night meeting here at the municipal building on East Bay Avenue to give opinions on 2016 regulations for black sea bass, scup and fluke, which is also called summer flounder.

The most important question of the night was whether to support Option 2B of the fluke plan that would allow the New Jersey side of the Delaware Bay to compete with Delaware. This support now goes to the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council when it makes decisions on 2016 fluke regulations in March.

The 2015 regulations for the New Jersey side of the bay included a minimum fish size of 18 inches, five fish per day, and a 128-day season.

In Delaware, Maryland and Virginia anglers were allowed a 16-inch fish, four fish a day and enjoyed a 365-day season. Option 2B would allow the New Jersey side to have a 17-inch fish, four fish a day and the 128-day season. It’s not equal to Delaware, but it is closer to parity.

A straw poll drew 37 votes for the option, including many anglers who don’t fish the Delaware but wanted to support fellow Garden State anglers to the south.

Frank Virgilio of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, said marinas, bait & tackle shops, party boats and charter boats are going out of business on the bayshore because anglers fish out of Delaware instead of New Jersey. He said business is down 30 to 40 percent.

“This option is very important to the survival of the Delaware bayside,” said Virgilio.

Mike Rothman, a boat captain in Fortesque, Cumberland County, also pushed for the option noting anglers were crossing the bridge to Delaware to fish under more lenient regulations.

“You mention Delaware Bay fishing. I am Delaware Bay fishing. This is my livelihood and it’s catastrophic. We recently lost two (party) boats and three or four charter boats,” Rothman said.

A number of large fishing groups including United Boatman and the Jersey Coast Anglers Association gave their support.

“In 2015 people in southern New Jersey were treated unfairly. They were fishing the same waters as the people of Delaware yet we have an 18-inch size limit and they have 16 inches. We’re losing business to Delaware,” said JCAA President Paul Haertel.

Overall the fluke harvest is being reduced 29 percent due to poor recruitment of juvenile fish. The harvest is going from 23 million pounds to 16 million pounds. This is expected to mostly hurt the commercial fishing industry as their quota will be cut by that amount.

Recreational anglers in New Jersey did not come close to their harvest target last year. They were allowed 942,401 fish and only landed 485,170. The cuts would mean anglers could only land 738,404 fish this year but since that is above last year’s catch the same regulations will stay in place.

This includes an 18-inch fish, five fish a day and a 128-day season. The only exceptions would be the Delaware Bay if Option 2B is put in place and Island Beach State Park where surfcasters are allowed smaller fluke.

Anglers voted to support this management regime for 2016 only and want to revisit the issue before 2017. New Jersey under an earlier set of regulations where each state was managed separately got 39 percent of the East Coast fluke harvest. The new regime, with stocks managed on a coast-wide basis and New Jersey lumped in with New York and Connecticut, has reduced it to 33 percent.

Tom Fote, a representative on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission from New Jersey, said it would be unrealistic to change back to the old system this year but he supported at least creating the Delaware Bay as a separate management region.

Toni Kerns, a manager with the ASMFC, said this year there is a Recreational Harvest Limit of 1.6 million fish for the whole coast and states are not managed individually.

“If the (ASMFC) goes back to state-by-state management in 2017 New Jersey would still have its 39 percent,” Kerns said.

Black sea bass catches were set to go up 20 percent this year from 2.33 million pounds to 2.8 million pounds but harvests through October were 1.19 million pounds over target and right now a 23-percent cut is called for against the 2.8 million pound quota.

The concern is anything landed in November and December will increase the cuts, and it was unseasonably warm those two months with a lot of fishing. Some fear cuts as high as 35 percent when those numbers come in.

Adam Nowalsky, a New Jersey representative on the ASMFC, said the final numbers will be out before a decision is made in February.

The scup catch limit is being reduced slightly but is still higher than recent landings.


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