There is one topic and one topic only dominating the discussions going on at bait shops, on docks and aboard boats this past week. That is the genuine possibility of a massive reduction in next year’s allowable summer flounder catch in New Jersey. The proposal for an upwards of 43 percent slashing of the catch was disclosed by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, citing overfishing and a huge decrease in the flounder stock. The decision can be challenged by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, but the final say still belong to NOAA..

This year’s quota is 18.45 million pounds, with 60 percent of that going to the commercial fleet, the rest to recreational anglers. The proposal for next year has the allowable catch down to 10.5 million pounds.

Now, if you talk to just about anyone who has fished for summer flounder this season, the last thing they will they will tell you is there is a shortage of fish. They may be undersized and have to be thrown back but finding fish is not a problem this season.

South Jersey already has what I think are overly strict flattie regulations, especially when compared with neighboring Delaware. Such a huge reduction in the number of fish you can bring back home, coupled with strict sea bass catch restrictions, quite possibly will wreck much of the state’s charter and party boat fleet. A large percentage of anglers who pay to fish in New Jersey come from Pennsylvania and if the rules make it nearly impossible to catch enough fish for dinner, the ride to Delaware ports is not much of a hardship.

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