JCAA Update

March 4, 2016

The 2016 regulations for fluke and sea bass were set by the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council meeting on March 3rd. The NJ Bureau of Marine Fisheries worked hard to develop various options. A clear majority of advisors and others in attendance supported the following options. The council unanimously approved the following regulations:
FLUKE – 5 fish at 18″ with a season beginning on 5/21 and ending on 9/25 except for Delaware Bay where there will be a 4 fish limit at 17″ and at Island Beach State Park where there will be a 2 fish limit at 16″.
SEA BASS – 10 fish at 12.5″ from 5/23-6/19, 2 fish at 12.5″ from 7/1-8/31 and 15 fish at 13″ from 10/22-12/31.
STRIPED BASS – An overview of the 2015 fishery was given but the regulations, including those for the bonus bass program will remain the same.

In 2014, marinas, tackle stores, charter and party boats as well as other businesses were negatively impacted by the fact that New Jersey had an 18″ size limit on fluke while Delaware had only a 16″ size limit. This was unfair in that anglers from both states were fishing essentially the same waters of Delaware Bay. Due to the 2″ size limit many anglers opted to fish out of Delaware rather than New Jersey.
JCAA representatives worked hard to correct this inequity by testifying at various meetings sponsored by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries, NJ Bureau of Marine Fisheries, the NJ Marine Fisheries Council. Written comments were also submitted. Though our complaints fell on deaf ears for 2015, an option for 17″ fluke was approved by the ASMFC for 2016. The discrepancy in size limits between the two states is now only 1″ rather than 2″. While not a perfect solution, hopefully it will be enough to bring some business back to the southern portion of our state.
While JCAA played an integral part in establishing the improved regulations, credit has to be given others as well such as the NJMFC and particularly to Brandon Muffley, Administrator of the NJ Bureau of Marine Fisheries and his staff for developing this option. Brandon served as one of our commissioners at the ASMFC Black Sea Bass, Scup and Summer Flounder Management Board meeting this past winter along with Commissioners Tom Fote and Adam Nowalsky. All three lobbied hard for the new option while explaining the problem to various commissioners from other states. Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to approve our preferred option.
The situation for sea bass was also a tough one as we were forced to develop regulations that would result in a 23% cut in our harvest from 2015. Peter Clark, a marine biologist for the NJBMF developed various options that would result with the mandated cut. They were presented at the advisors meeting where modifications were suggested. Most advisors were in agreement with beginning the season on 5/23 and extending it through 6/19. Even though the season will then close for eleven days the reasoning was that there will be plenty of sea bass biting in the early part of the season while fluke may be biting better towards the end of June when the sea bass season will be closed. Also, the vast majority of advisors were in agreement that we needed to have the season opened for most of the summer even though there will be only a two fish bag limit. This will give anglers an opportunity too spice their catch with a couple nice sea bass during July and August which is particularly important when the fluke fishing was slow. This is an important improvement from last year when the season was closed during all of August. However, the size limit did have to be increased to 13″ from 10/22 – 12/31 so that the bag limit during that time could remain at 15. Most sea bass are offshore at that time of the year and charter and party boat captains expressed concern that it would be hard to sell trips if the bag limit was reduced rather than increasing the size limit. There are predominantly large sea bass caught on these offshore excursions.

Paul Haertel

JCAA Board Member, Past President

About Jersey Coast Anglers Association
The Jersey Coast Anglers Association is a non-profit organization formed in 1981. The original objective of the JCAA was to combine a loosely fragmented group of marine sportfishing clubs in order to form and promote a united consensus on issues relevant to saltwater anglers in New Jersey. Over the years, the mission of the JCAA has remained unchanged, but now has the added goal of joining forces with organizations having similar objectives in states along the East Coast and national organizations. While the JCAA is relatively young, it has emerged as the most effective organization of its kind on the East Coast. For more information, or for information about becoming a member of the JCAA, please call (732) 506-6565 or visit www.jcaa.org.