New York anglers to enjoy ‘fair fluke limits’ this season

A 'fisherman' at Kenny's Beach in Southold last week.(Stanley Siejka courtesy photo)
A ‘fisherman’ at Kenny’s Beach in Southold last week.(Stanley Siejka courtesy photo)

New York anglers can now enjoy the same fluke size and bag limits as neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, leveling the playing field when it comes to catching one of region’s most popular fish — summer flounder, commonly known as fluke.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which helps regulate the fluke stock in the region, voted Tuesday to combine New York, New Jersey and Connecticut into a single region with regards to fluke size and catch limits.

For the 2014 season, New York’s commercial and recreational fishermen will be able to benefit from a size limit of 18 inches — an inch smaller than last season’s size limit — and a bag limit of four fish, which now puts New York and in line with that of surrounding states who have long enjoyed less stringent size limits.

Prior to this, recreational fishermen in New Jersey and Connecticut could catch up to five fluke at least 17.5 inches long per day, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, while recreational anglers in New York could take only four fluke, at least 19 inches in length, according to the state DEC.

“It’s a great improvement and it will help business and recreational angers greatly,” said Captain Phil Kess of the Orient Point charter boat Fishy Business. “We were definitely getting the wrong end of the stick, without a doubt.”

The last time anglers in the tri-state area were subject to the same regulations was in 1998, said Captain Bob Busby, president of the North Fork Captains Association, which represents area charter boats. He’s also a member of the advisory panel on fluke for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Captain Sloan Gurney of the Black Rock fishing charter boat, who has been fishing out of Orient Point for about three decades, said when different size regulations came down in the late ’90s, they made the East End a less desirable place to fish when compared with other areas with higher bag limits.

He called the regulations “unfair and inequitable,” saying they had gone on “far too long.”

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced plans to introduce legislation aimed at fairness for state anglers in November for more permanent regulations.

Mr. Schumer says the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which manages tri-state area fisheries as well as others along the East Coast, are using outdated and flawed data to set New York’s fluke regulations.

“With the approval of this amendment, New York anglers have moved leaps and bounds closer to achieving our goal of fluke fairness,” Mr. Schumer said. “While this amendment only applies to the upcoming fishing season, we now have a widespread consensus that New York has been getting the short end of the fish, and that changes need to be made.”

This summer, Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce asking the agency to reassess fluke regulations, warning the federal government that New York State was prepared to file suit if action was not taken to ensure that New York’s anglers get a fair deal, according to a release from Mr. Cuomo’s office.

Mr. Kess said while anglers applaud the change to a level playing field, they are hopeful that being regulated as a region will not shorten the state’s fishing season.

“The biggest thing with regionalization is we know we’re probably going to have a shorter season,” he said. “We hope it doesn’t impact us in May. Fluke, has traditionally been our starting fish, so if they shorten up the season it could effects us on that end now.”

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