New Jersey Fighting Cuts To Summer Flounder Recreational Fishing

Reductions Would Amount To De Facto Moratorium On Flounder Fishing And Ripple Throughout The Shore Tourism Economy.

The Christie Administration has formally requested the new U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, to put a hold on severe restrictions on recreational summer flounder fishing adopted recently by a regional fisheries commission, a move that would effectively cripple the state’s fishing industry and have far-reaching impacts on the shore tourism economy, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.

As head of the Department of Commerce, Secretary Ross oversees management of fisheries through the agency’s Fisheries Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.
Last month, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) approved a 34 percent reduction in the state’s recreational quota for summer flounder.

Commissioner Martin wrote to Secretary Ross that the restrictions will “put our recreational summer flounder industry in serious jeopardy.”

“This action imposes a de facto moratorium on recreational summer flounder fishing in my state,” Commissioner Martin wrote. “This action also is disproportionately damaging to New Jersey compared with other states.”

“In the short term, New Jersey is requesting that you stop these new regulations from going into effect and that NOAA Fisheries Maintain the status quo for the 2017 Recreational Harvest Limit for summer flounder. At the same time, we are requesting an immediate benchmark stock assessment for summer flounder be conducted.”

Summer flounder, also known as fluke, is one of the state’s most popular sport fish. It is especially popular in New Jersey, attracting many thousands of anglers each summer season because of the abundance of these fish close to beaches and in bays and creeks. The summer flounder season in New Jersey typically runs from May through September, concurrent with the peak tourism season.

Any reduction would be in addition to the 27 recreational quota reduction New Jersey had to implement after successfully fighting off a proposed 59 percent reduction in 2015.

Last year’s New Jersey regulations allowed recreational anglers fishing to take up to four summer flounder per day that met a minimum, 17-inch length requirement in Delaware Bay. For all other New Jersey marine waters, the minimum length was at least 18 inches long.

In order to meet the new quota, New Jersey’s size limit would have to be increased to 19 inches and the number of fish that could be kept each day would be reduced from five to three. Due to their biological needs and migration patterns, summer flounder are smaller in New Jersey waters than in waters north of our state.

Ironically, most of the fish that anglers would be able to keep under the new regulations would be breeding-size females. Ninety percent of the fish that meet the 19-inch limit are females.

The Christie Administration argues that fisheries resources, managed by regional commissions based on information collected by the states and the National Marine Fisheries Service, varies too widely from year to year, causing a great deal of uncertainty for state fishery managers and for those who enjoy fishing. Conversely, New Jersey has over three decades’ worth of fish trawl surveys that show a slight, but measurable increase in the summer flounder stock off the coast.

“New Jersey recognizes the importance of protecting our marine resources by preventing the overfishing of any species,” Commissioner Martin added in the letter. “But the decisions that are made to ensure the health of fisheries must be based on reliable data about the health of the fishery and the use of up-to-date, sound science.”

Recreational fishing in New Jersey alone directly creates some 20,000 jobs and contributes $1.5 billion to the state’s economy, with commercial fishing generating another billion dollars in economic benefits. Restaurants, hotels, gift shops and a wide range of other businesses would be harmed if recreational anglers see no point in making the trip if they feel that their prospects for keeping a few fish to take home are not good.

Commissioner Martin testified against the quota changes at the Feb. 2 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting. In his letter to Secretary Ross, Commissioner Martin noted that NOAA’s Fisheries Office and the National Marine Fisheries Service are required to review decisions by regional commissioners before they are published in the Federal Register and become final.

Click here to view a copy of Commissioner Martin’s letter.

  1. Fran gresko

    First of all you should stop the commercial fishing And then that relational fisherman take two fish at 16 and 17 inch

  2. Local fisherman

    There is no meat on a 17 or 18 inch fish. 19 inches and three per day is fine

    • Robert Pazdan

      Your an asshole ,making a statement like that . I don’t know where you fish, but where I fish 17 and 18 inch fish have plenty of meat on them for a good meal . Your just being greedy and want to wipe out the breeding fish.

      • Ryan

        Amen Robert, I’m sure people know him as “Local Poacher”. There’s PLENTY of meat on a 16″ fish

  3. Jeff Davis

    As a charter captain, recommend 3 fish per person, 16 and 17 inches. That works out to 12 filets that a person can bring home to
    feed his family. That’s all a paying customer wants. Taking smaller fish protects the larger females. Reduce the quotas for the commercial boats, as the “bycatch” they throw back will never live.
    New regs would hurt marinas, tackle shops, charter business, reasons for tourists
    to go to the shore.

    • roberto arano

      Do people paying charters to fish off of, REALLY do it to put meat on the table? I say they do it for the fun of catching (and the outing) as it makes no economic sense to pay that much for a meal.

      • David Cap

        Not everything is based on economics. Yes its for the outing and the thrill of the catch, and its also very satisfying to bring home fresh fluke for dinner which you have caught for your family, and to save the price of tonight’s meal. Yes we want to bring home fish to eat! Leave the limits alone, or reduce as Captain Jeff suggests.

  4. Aaron Frisch

    Yes it’s true that Fluke have made a comeback and that NJ is seeing more gathering on its shores.
    Ref link:
    But we need to preserve our fisheries not plunder them.
    First – slot limits should be instituted to help preserve the breeders.
    Eat the more plentiful 16 and 17 inchers, release the doormats after taking a trophy pic.
    Second – Eliminate bottom dragging through near-shore fluke habitat.

  5. Bob

    Most of the Fluke over 19” are females. The government wants us to kill the females. That’s like the hunters going out and killing all the does. As we all know that is just not happening. Somebody better wake up!

    • Robert Pazdan

      Yes , it makes no sense to try and increase the summer fluke stocks if the
      government wants you to take the breeders home . Those 19 inch fish might be fine for the northern states where the fish are bigger , but down here 17 and 18 are fine and have plenty of meat , but I think 4 fish would be a better compromise to the limit .

  6. Ken

    In retrospect delaying or forgoing harvest reductions has always ended bad. Weakfish is a good example. In 2003 NOAA Scientists were calling for a 71% weakfish harvest reduction. They warned that without the reduction weakfish could be extinct by 2010. Due to political pressure! The ASMFC chose status-quo regulations . Sure enough , in 2009 the endangered species act was being considered as a management tool.

    However, with the current summer flounder situation. After listening to the Commissioner Bob Martin’s argument for status quo, I thought. Maybe, it’s not a bad idea. Considering, that a good part of New Jersey should be included in the southern zone anyway. We fish the same exact waters as Delaware fishermen. Yet, they have a 17″ keeper size and a 365 day season? Coupled with the fact that ASMFC has failed at managing our summer flounder. There is less fish and less opportunity to catch them in Cape May County NJ, now , than there was prior to any ASMFC regulations. A steady decrease !

  7. roberto arano

    It’s best to be (truly) conservative when it comes to avoiding over-fishing, IF one is thinking LONG TERM fishery health. This article is mostly emphasizing short term tourism profits. EVERYONE wins (profits) if we can get more people to enjoy catch and release.

  8. Bob Fox

    It almost seems like they are trying to tank the fishery by having us exclusively keeping the big breeding females. It absolutely makes no sense. But we are dealing with the GOV.

  9. Mike

    Commercial fluke fishing quotas need to be cut. Not just the recs. And commercial needs to transition away from dragging the bottom to rod and reel. That would drastically reduce by-catch mortality and the destruction of habitat and make commercial fishing more viable for small family operations. If that happens then stocks will rebound. Cut the recreational bag limit and institute a slot if needed. But the recreational angler can’t bear the whole responsibility. The commercial guys need to be responsible as well.

  10. Ken



    Introducing H.R. 1411 – the Transparent Summer Flounder Quotas Act, sponsored by Rep. Pallone and Rep. LoBiondo.

    The NJOA thanks and supports Representatives Pallone and LoBiondo, along with New Jersey’s Sport Fishing Organizations for the prompt and effective actions taken to date to save the recreational summer flounder fishery. Hopefully, this and related actions will attract the much needed attention to this marine fisheries management issue.

    Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ-6) and Frank A. LoBiondo (R-NJ-2) introduced a Summer Flounder Bill to support New Jersey’s Saltwater Anglers on 3/7/2017.

    H.R.1411 – To continue in effect for the 2017 and 2018 fishing seasons certain fishing specifications for the summer flounder fishery, and for other purposes.

    This is a bipartisan effort on a Congressional level and on N.J.’s Grassroots Level, to revisit the drastic quotas proposed by the ASFMC and to show the need for better methodologies and data collection. on a Congressional level and at N.J.’s Grassroots Level.

    Section 1 states that the 2017-2018 quotas published on December 22,2016 do not apply with respect to the summer flounder fishery

    states that the existing quotas shall continue until
    a new summer flounder stock assessment is completed.
    a new rule based on that assessment takes effect.
    relationship to existing law
    this bill would apply notwithstanding Magnuson-Stevens (MSA) section 302(h)(6), {May not exceed a Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee’s (SSC) fishing level recommendation, taken from pg. 6 on the following link, link, Here .
    This bill should not be construed to affect any other provision of MSA.

    Added Pete Grimbilas, NJOA Chair, “We greatly appreciate Congressmen Pallone and LoBiondo’s efforts. Their quick action may just hold off this year’s quota reduction problem, however the measure is only temporary relief (a Band Aid) that may have repercussions next year from “overfishing” in 2017. NJOA is looking to congress for a long term, permanent fix starting with a rewrite of the MSA and total revamp of the data collecting processes.”

    To Support this fight and take back our summer flounder season click HERE
    Visit the NJOA web site and Join today!

  11. James

    I fish fluke from Montauk to Del. It is by and far some of the most enjoyable fishing around. Usually great weather and easy to catch. It is largely about the experience, especially for kids. Keep the limit to 3 to 4 fish, 16-17 inches. Or institute a size between 15-17(3 fish) or over 24(1 fish)Similar to stripers. Leaves a large group of breeders in between.

  12. Alan Hanstein

    Stop blaming the recreational fishermen and making them pay for the commercial fishermen’s overfishing and lack of regulations. A 16″ flounder is a nice catch let us keep 3

  13. Tony B

    I started Party Boat fishing on the Palace out of Hoboken in the mid 70’s and on a yearly basis, we consistently fished for Fluke (Days) and Blues (Nights) in the Summer, Black Fish and Sea Bass in the Fall, Whiting and Ling in the Winter, and Mackeral and Flounder (Winter) in the Spring. Fast forward the clock 30 years and for many sad reasons including greed (Commercial & Recreational), most of that consistency is gone. 3 Smaller (16-17) Fluke for my Son and I would be a nice day.

  14. Ryan

    How about the commercial fleet, I’ve seen draggers pulling up a net full of fluke, next thing I know there’s a football field size area of dead fluke floating on the surface. It’s time they get the book thrown there way for once.

  15. george bridle



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