With the 2013 spring and summer fishing season appearing to many who lost their homes and boats in Superstorm Sandy as a pipe dream, the annual debate on fishing regulations for the state's most popular recreational species is moving ahead as it normally does during the off season.
Next week, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will meet, with a subcommittee expected to approve several regulatory options – one of which the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council will ultimately choose next year's summer flounder regulations.
All of the options on the table before the ASMFC take into account an approximately 15 percent cut in quota from the 2012 season, where the minimum size limit fell to 17.5 inches after years at an 18 inch minimum, which anglers considered excessively high.
Recreational anglers were allowed to harvest 1,090,407 fish last season, but will be limited to 977,998 in 2013. According to federal fisheries data, anglers overfished their quota last year, harvesting a total of 1,153,975 fish.
"The 15 percent required reduction represents the difference of the 2013 target in relation to the 2012 harvest estimate," documentation before the ASMFC reads. "Constraining the season has been effective for reducing harvest."
In 2012, summer flounder season was open for 147 days, from May 5 through Sept. 28.
The ASMFC will consider approving the following season options for New Jersey for 2013:
SIZE, DATE BAGSummer Flounder 2013 SIZE (in inches) OPEN SEASON BAG LIMIT 17.5 May 24 – Sept 21 5/day/angler 17.5 May 18 – Sept 16 5/day/angler 17.5 May 4 – Sept 5 5/day/angler 18 May 18 – Sept 26 5/day/angler 18 May 11 – Sept 20 5/day/angler 18 May 1 – Sept 12 5/day/angler 18.5 May 1 – Oct 31 5/day/angler
All of the options represent between a 15.3 and 15.6 percent cut from the 2012 season, which ran from May 5 to Sept. 28 with a 17.5 minimum size limit and five fish bag limit.
The ASMFC will vote on whether to approve New Jersey's proposed options at its winter meetings, slated to be held Feb. 19 through Feb. 21, next Tuesday through Thursday.
Whichever options are approved by the ASMFC will then go to the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council, from which council members will vote to enact one of the options as the official regulations for the 2013 season.
The Marine Fisheries Council is scheduled to make that determination March 7 at 4 p.m. at the Atlantic County Library System's Galloway Branch.