Home Boating & Fishing N.J. Files Formal Appeal of ‘Devastating’ Fluke Quota Reduction

N.J. Files Formal Appeal of ‘Devastating’ Fluke Quota Reduction

An angler shows off his fluke caught in Barnegat Bay. (Photo: Jersey Shore Fishing Magazine)
An angler shows off his fluke caught in Barnegat Bay. (Photo: Jersey Shore Fishing Magazine)

The state Department of Environmental Protection has filed a formal appeal in an attempt to stave off what they believe will be devastating impacts to the recreational fishing and boating industries this year if a major cut to the summer flounder quota is finalized.

The 34-percent quota reduction approved in February by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission “will have a devastating impact on the state’s fishing industry and tourism economy while paradoxically harming the long-term health of the state’s summer flounder stocks,” Commissioner Bob Martin said.

To achieve the 34-percent reduction, New Jersey would be forced to increase the minimum size limit for summer flounder, also known as fluke, from 18 inches in most state waters to 19 inches, making legally sized fish more difficult to keep. Additionally, the number of fish that could be kept under the new restrictions would be reduced from five to three.


Recreational and commercial fishing employs 65,000 people and generates some $2.5 billion in annual economic benefits to the state. Summer flounder, state officials said, is one of the state’s most sought-after recreational fish species, prized for its delicate flavor and easily found close to beaches and in bays and creeks.

Opponents of the decision say the commission uses outdated and scientifically unsound techniques to calculate fish stocks. One of the reasons behind the cut in quota – the fact that anglers caught too many fish in previous years – is a product of the health of the fishery, which was considered fully rebuilt to legal standards by the federal government.

Further, a DEP analysis of the quota reduction determined that the number of undersized, or discarded, fish that die after being thrown back will be greater than the number of fish that will be harvested. This would be the first-ever such imbalance for the state. Flounder, like all fish, are susceptible to mortality from hook wounds and stress. Plus, research has shown that all flounder above 18 inches in length are females, meaning just one gender would be harvested.

“Discard mortality that exceeds harvest is not acceptable from a fishery management standpoint and will not be well received by the recreational fishing sector,” the state’s representatives wrote, adding that such waste would be inconsistent with goals established by federal law.

New Jersey’s representatives to ASMFC are New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Larry Herrighty, Governor’s appointee Thomas P. Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, and Legislative Commissioner Assemblyman Bob Andrejczak.

The New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, which often is a proponent of strict regulations, came out against the state’s position.

“This decision by the DEP to oppose the flounder catch limit changes is short-sited and part of the Christie Administration’s anti-regulatory agenda,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the club. “Instead of protecting the fisheries off our coats, they are trying to rollback limits put in place by the Marine Fisheries Commission. If we go back to the old limits, we’ll continue to see the depletion of flounder stocks. Some point, there won’t be any left to fish.”

Martin said the state’s position is sound.

“We are appealing the ASFMC decision because of the numerous process, data, policy and regulatory issues that will significantly impact New Jersey’s fishing industry,” Martin said. “The ASFMC decision will actually result in anglers in New Jersey having to throw more dead fish back into the water than they can keep to eat, and the fish they can keep overwhelmingly will be reproductive females. This is not sound fishery management.”

  • craigoftruth

    New Jersey’s representatives to ASMFC are New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Larry Herrighty, Governor’s Christie’s appointee Thomas P. Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, Legislative Commissioner Assemblyman Bob Andrejczak and the local fishermen/women are so short sighted. These people are total idiots to over fish the stock that is still available to a point as not to have fish in the future for my children to enjoy as I did. The article states the 65,000 persons are employed in the fishing industry NOT just fluke fisherpeople. These people are so selfish and short sighted motivated by greed that they are going to fish themselves right out of business.

  • Surfrider

    Fishing in general has gone south in the last few years. Especially the fluke/flounder population. I used to always max out on my trips, up to about 3 years ago, but with the 18″ limit, it is really tough to come back with a couple that meet the number! I go on trips, out there all day with no 18″, going from inside the inlet, north to Belmar area working the Sea Girt Reef, working south over the Axel Carlson Reef and a myriad of spots along these reefs, as well as inshore closer, and I can tell ya, the larger fish aint there like they used to be! I catch plenty of shorts, probably mostly in the 14-16′ range, and I have been called the “fluke whisperer”, for my prowess in catching the flatties, occasionally getting a nice one, but that is it. I stopped fishing the winter flounder, because again, trying to get 2 fish that meet 12″ is really tough, freezing your butt off with usually heavy winds and since the dredging and all in the the bay after Sandy, GOOD LUCK! Not worth it to go and try and get a couple fish, when going out to the ocean, looking at about $75-100 in gas alone. A lot of times when I go, there are substantial fleets out there that I notice, not many fish caught, if any! One thing, though, the seiners are in closer than they should be, but I do not know what kind of fish and quantities they are dragging in. Just a few thoughts from someone who goes regularly.