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NJ ADOPTS “SLOT” LIMIT ON FLUKE & SETS SEA BASS & PORGY REGS by Jim Hutchinson Jr., Fisherman Magazine
If you haven’t yet unwrapped your boat, better move quick – New Jersey’s fluke season opens up on May 2.
At an April 7th virtual hearing of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council), the 2022 summer flounder, black sea bass and porgy regulations were finally set. On the fluke front, out of four potential options approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and moved forward by the Council’s advisory committee which met during the final week of March, the Council voted to make New Jersey the first state along the Atlantic Coast to ever have a “slot” option on fluke.
After a series of procedural votes – and continuing technological glitches – the council voted to implement a May 2 to September 27 fluke season with a two-fish slot possession limit from 17 to 17.99 inches, with one fish at 18 inches or greater.
The so-called “Option 2” was not the preferred option of the Council’s advisors (three fluke at 17-1/2 inches with a May 21 to September 23 season), but during the public comment portion the unique slot option was favored by members of the public by a nearly 2-1 ratio. The final approval of the slot option came by way of a 6-2 vote by the Council.
There was plenty of discussion amongst members of the public in support of a slot fish; option two in particular would allow pressure to be taken off larger, breeding-sized fluke while also extending the season. “Biologically speaking, it’s a good concept,” said Peter Clarke with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (Division) of the slot option for fluke.
“By focusing on a smaller fish the discards would be diminished and discard mortality would be converted to harvest,” Clarke said, noting that the slot would also direct harvest towards a smaller size class that was more plentiful. In addition to allowing for two smaller keepers measuring from 17 to 17.99 inches, the slot option also curried favor due to the longer length of season, with the 149 days of open season representing a 28-day increase over 2021.
As for the two special fluke management zones in New Jersey – two fluke at 16 inches at Island Beach State Park, and three summer flounder at 17 inches west of the COLREGS on Delaware Bay – the Council voted to leave those limits stand for 2022.
In terms of black sea bass, to meet the federally required 20% reduction in coastwide black sea bass harvest, the Council unanimously approved a recreational 13-inch size limit on black sea bass across the board with an open season from May 17 through June 19 and a 10-fish bag limit; July 1 through August 31 with a two-fish bag; October 7 through October 26 with a 10-fish bag; and November 1 through December 31 with a 15-fish possession limit.
Most members of the public who voiced opinions during the black sea bass portion of the meeting voted in favor of this particular option due the total length of season (177 days), though one concern brought up on this option had to do with the increase in size limit over 2021 and the potential for increasing overall harvest through higher mortality rates on released short fish.
While the meeting was scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., Council and Division staffers spent the first several minutes performing technological testing and communications debugging; that hearing was actually kicked off by Chairman Dick Herb at 5:07 p.m. Continued issues with the GoToWebinar “virtual” hearing however restricted some members of the public from commenting during the four-hour session, and Chairman Herb himself was dropped from the meeting several times before other Council members and Division staffers had to take up the “virtual” gavel.
The Council also approved a 1-inch size limit increase on porgies which was required by NOAA Fisheries throughout the Atlantic Coast. In New Jersey, that means a 10-inch size limit on porgies will go into effect for 2022, with a 50 fish bag limit and no closed season.
Approximately 150 members of the fishing public had signed in go GoToWebinar by the time the fluke discussion began at roughly 5:15 p.m., though there were about 190 attendees at one point during that discussion. By the time the black sea bass vote commenced at 8:28 p.m. 126 attendees were still tuned in for the online presentation.
While the Council’s approval of the 2022 options will effectively represent the final regulations for the 2022 season, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Division ultimately have to make it all official through statute.
The Council meeting was officially adjourned at 8:59 p.m.
5 Types of Sinkers
Pyramid: The most commonly used sinker in the surf. The pyramid-style sinker digs into the sand after the cast, but can pop out, at which point its flat sides will slide or roll over the bottom, if the current is too rough.
Coin: The flat, “coin” sinker is a good choice for targeting kingfish. While this sinker does stay in place, it can easily be dragged across the bottom, kicking up sand like a small calico crab digging in to avoid danger.
Wedge: The wedge or “frog tongue” sinker is the top choice for big baits in strong surf. This style of sinker digs deep into a sandy bottom and its concave top resists being pulled free. The downside is that it can be a bear to retrieve, with the top catching the bottom on the entire way in.
Hatteras: The Hatteras-style or storm sinker holds better than a pyramid, but not as well as a wedge sinker. It’s a popular choice in muddy back bays, and many fishermen believe that, ounce-for-ounce, it casts better than a pyramid sinker.
Sputnik: This teardrop-shaped sinker is molded around several wires that dig into the sand or mud bottom, providing a firm hold. The wires will “trip” on the retrieve, making it much easier to reel in than the wedge-style sinker
There are different ways to fish for your trophy fish.
A popular one with the boaters is to anchor in the inlet or bay with clams and or bunker.
Some prefer to troll. Some of the popular lures to troll with are bunker spoons, stretch plugs and umbrella rigs. Many anglers like to use drift eels. You can only hope the bluefish are not in that area that day. Eels are also used by the boats that like to troll the white water. They will put an eel on a bucktail to troll or they will use a bucktail with pork rind.
Jigging is another popular way of catching bass. Ava jigs and weighted shads work well for this type of fishing. The last few years we have had a lot of bunker in our waters so the snag and drop method has become popular for big bass. You snag your bunker and leave it on the snag and wait for a fish to come along and eat that fish that looks like an easy prey.
If you are fishing in a tournament you have to take that bunker off the snag and re-hook it on a different hook to be IGFA legal. Gang hooks are not permitted by IGFA.
When fishing in the surf you do not have all these options. You either bait fish with bunker and clams, being the most popular, or you throw lures. There are so many types of lures that you can use.
There are top water lures such as poppers, there are also surface lures, such as bombers, redfins, darters. metals that can be worked slowly to drag the bottom. You also have jigging lures such as avas and bucktails. You can use shads, gulp, fin-s, and slugos and retrieve them in different ways to get the action you want.
We carry a lot of these supplies in the store along with large nets.
A lot of people have not caught a large striper in their lifetime so if you don’t want your catch please release it to swim for another day, then someone else can enjoy the excitement of catching their “Trophy Fish”.