Is this New Jersey’s most beloved fish?
Earlier this summer the state Department of Environmental Protection was involved in a major fish flap.
Thankfully, all’s well that ends well.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission had recommended increasing the minimum size of summer flounder (also called fluke) that fisherman in New Jersey could catch and keep up to 19 inches, but U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross was convinced by the DEP that changing the rules would hurt the Garden State’s fishing industry and that the move was not necessary.
DEP Deputy Commissioner David Glass said this means the already established criteria for catching summer flounder remain in effect.
“On the Atlantic side we have an 18-inch summer flounder, 17 inch in the Delaware Bay and 16 inches at Island Beach State park, with a three-fish bag limit,” he said.
So what’s the big deal about this?
Glass noted, “Summer flounder is New Jersey’s most popular fishery and it generates a lot of tourism. There’s day trips, folks fishing from the coast, going out in the water.”
He also pointed out fishing generates big bucks for the tourism industry.
“Combined recreational and commercial fishing is a $2.5 billion industry, employs 65,000 people.”
Glass said to promote responsible fishing the DEP is handing out 20,000 free larger J-hooks as part of the public education campaign If You Can’t Keep It, Save It.
“Every angler wants to bring home a keeper, but if you do catch an undersized fish, there are simple things you can do to ensure it grows larger and one day it is a keeper,” he said.
The DEP has teamed up with the American Sport Fishing Association and Eagle Claw, a fishing tackle company, to distribute the J-hooks.
Glass explained these hooks will help “anglers catch larger sized fluke and it will also reduce the potential for gut hooking, which can be fatal for summer flounder.”
He stressed whenever you go out on the water “you want to make sure you bring the appropriate gear with you, and you want to handle fish carefully. If it’s a keeper, great. But if not, handle it carefully and return it to the water as quickly as possible.”
“At heart nobody wants to over-fish a fishery, but you need to find a balance between sound science and reason, to ensure that recreational and commercial fisheries have access to that stock.”
For more information, you can visit savefluke.nj.gov.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com