March 29, 2006

More Changes In Regulation

Last April, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that emergency marine recreational fishing regulations would be put into place for the 2005-2006 season, affecting fluke, porgies, sea bass, striped bass, and bluefish. At that time, acting Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan was quoted as saying that "saltwater fishing brings enjoyment to countless anglers and contributes significantly to our economy." The commissioner also pointed out that the new regulations would continue to protect our important marine fishery, while providing more opportunities for a great catch.

As avid anglers already know, lots of changes have taken place within the jurisdiction of the D.E.C. during the past few seasons. Not all of us would agree that they are providing us with greater opportunities to catch fish, as the commissioner suggested.

According to the D.E.C. website, the changes in season, size and bag limits for fluke, porgies and sea bass were enacted "as a reflection of stable or increasing quotas for these species, coupled with the reduction in harvest resulting from the more restrictive regulations implemented in 2004 that were necessary to bring the state into compliance with the requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission."

The most recent change in regulations is the new ruling involving flounder. There will be a 12-inch minimum size limit and a bag limit of 10 fish per day. The season will not open until this Saturday and will close on May 30. Personally, I still think it will be difficult for most anglers to actually go home with 10 flounder, as I discussed in great detail in my last fishing column.

As we go to press, it appears that blackfish will have a 14-inch minimum size limit with a 10 fish bag. Their season opened last October 1 and continues until May 31. Bluefish have no actual size limit and anglers may take 15 per day, but no more than 10 of which may be less than 12 inches in total length. Cod and haddock will have 22-inch and 19-inch length limits, respectively and the season is open all year. At the moment, there is no bag limit on these fish.

Fluke must be 17.5 inches long and only five fish may be taken daily. There is a lot of discussion taking place right now about that bag size being lowered even more drastically before the season opens on April 29. Stay tuned for further information. The D.E.C. keeps records of seasonal catches and has recently announced that too many fluke were pulled out of our local waters during the 2005 season, so we'll have to wait and see where all this goes.

Porgies presently must be at least 10 .5 inches and anglers may take home 25 per day. It does look hopeful that the regulations will expand the number of scup allowed before their season opens on July 1. Porgy fishing continues until October 31. There is presently a ruling in effect that passengers fishing aboard licensed party and charter boats may each possess up to 60 fish from September 1-October 31.

Sea bass have a 12-inch minimum length and a bag limit of 25 per day. Their season opened on January 1 and closes on November 30. Striped bass and weakfish have unchanged limits; with 28 inches being the minimum length limit and one fish per day, unless you are lucky enough to be aboard a licensed charter/party vessel, which allows you to take home two big fish! Weakfish limits will be set at 16 inches and you make take six of them.

While you can't take flounder out of our local waters at the moment, there are still some terrific cod catches taking place not far from our shores. Montauk boats have continued to report good action with this historically famous fish. If you want a great read, when you're not actually out on the water but still want to think fish, read Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, by Mark Kurlansky.

The story surrounds itself around the codfish, linking it to a major role in the development of a thousand years of history across four continents. Kurlansky brings us back to the days of the Vikings, who pursued it across the Atlantic and the Pilgrims who would learn to live on it for survival. I guess I had never realized what an impact this fish had globally, so I now have a much greater respect for the codfish.

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