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Sea Bass Quota to be Cut, But Winter Flounder Bite Remains Strong

ASMFC decision will significantly cut back on sea bass harvest

I know some of you have probably been thinking in recent weeks, “geez, this is the most depressing fishing column I’ve ever read!”

Well, get ready to have your point proven again. We’re about to lose 40 percent of our recreational sea bass quota. Don’t shoot me, hook me or gaff me – I’m just the messenger.

A March 28 ruling from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has established new state shares for black sea bass that will see the overall recreational quota reduced.

“The 2010 regulations resulted in a preliminary estimated harvest of 2.98 million pounds, approximately 1.15 million pounds above the 2010 target,” said ASMFC spokeswoman Tina Berger in a news release. “Given that the 2010 regulations were not effective in staying within the target, coastwide harvest will need to be reduced by 37% to achieve, but not exceed, the 2011 target of 1.78 million pounds.”

New Jersey, according to the release, will have to reduce its share by 40 percent overall. Over the next two months, state officials will be required to submit proposed recreational measures to meet the required reduction for technical review and board approval.

Present regulations on sea bass call for a 25 fish bag limit and a 12.5 inch minimum size limit. The season is currently open from May 22 through Oct. 11 and Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

There is no telling what the new cuts will amount to, though in recent years regulators have called on state marine fisheries officials to account for at least half of a cut by reducing season length.

Alright, bad news out of the way. Let’s get to the good stuff: the winter flounder bite is on fire!

The action is at its best in Brick, where anglers fishing under the Mantoloking Bridge have nailed the fish on a daily basis since the season opened March 23. The bag limit is two fish per angler at 12 inches each, but that’s enough to provide a nice dinner and a few hours of fishing, which is certainly better than sitting home ‘til fluke season begins!

Anglers have seen great success anchoring just south of the bridge span, chumming like mad and using bloodworms to entice the flatties.

Ocean County’s winter flounder population has been hungry this season, for sure. They’re crushing them at Oyster Creek as well near the power plant discharge. I’m hearing that there’s no shortage of keeper fish, but participation has been low due to the weather and the bag limit. But once again… a bad (or short) day of fishing…

The coolest news of winter flounder season so far has been the report that folks are catching them from the area of the LBI Causeway bridge in Ship Bottom. As a lifelong LBI angler, I’ve been waiting to see some meaningful action by the bridge for a while. Back in the day, the area just north of the bridge closest to Ship Bottom used to be “the spot,” but action in recent years trailed off. Last spring, however, there was a great early season bass bite by the easternmost bridge, and I’m happy to hear about a flounder bite developing there this year.

If you want to get in on the action, fish near the bridges closest to Ship Bottom or at Cedar Bonnet Island near The Dutchman’s. Just south of The Dutchman’s, there are some skinny (but deep) channels that provide some great fishing opportunities. I would search for a few flounder in there, then move closer to the Ship Bottom boat ramp and the adjacent bridge.

We’ll keep tracking the flounder throughout the next month, but keep in mind that the season is short and the fish will begin their push to the ocean in a couple weeks. At that point, the place to find them will be the Manasquan River.

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