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Well, I've been saying that the fluke biomass has been way overestimated these past few years. The fishing in the bay and also where I fish in Chesapeake Bay has gotten worse over the course of the last few years. In Al Ristori's column in the Fisherman, he made brief mention of apparently recent discovery of "problems in fluke recruitment". The problem is [at least I feel] that when NMFS finally detects a problem in a population, whatever problem they detect has already been underway for years.

Cutbacks? lol I'm trying to remember when the last time was when fishing with two or three guys on my boat that we've had a two or three man limit. It's been quite a few years.
 

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Hey Phil, you and I did last June, before noon but that was in the deep. Not many limits coming from there lately either! Overfishing, overpredation and maybe global warming are taking it's toll on the biomass in these parts. Comms have a hard quota and much more accurate catch data. I think we're still getting fair #'s of fish each year, though we fish em out pretty quick. If there's not a rebound somewhere late, we got problems. In any event, if it keeps gets worse, we'll be paying for it in the regs in the future, and with our fishing.
 

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Thats so dissappointing to hear. This is my first year on the delaware and in the past 5-6 flatty fishing trips i have only kept 5 or so. Hopefully they start coming back. The only encouraging news maybe is i have thrown back a countless number of shorts so next year they could be keepers.
 

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TWIN D'S said:
I'm trying to remember when the last time was when fishing with two or three guys on my boat that we've had a two or three man limit. It's been quite a few years.
sad, but true.
 

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Phil,
According to the article below there are some people that disagree with you or they are trying to save the recreational fishing industry in NJ. I agree with you but I have done well with the fluke as my numbers have decline every year. This year I am about the same as last year but I have less fishing trips. I tend to think it may not be just overfishing that is hurting the fluke but the weather climate or conditions. It maybe a part of global warming that is impacting our fishery, although I don't have the science to prove it. I copied this article from the offshore forum.

Are fluke anglers' days numbered?
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 07/21/06

BY JOHN GEISER
CORRESPONDENT
A near-shutdown of the recreational fluke fishery in 2007 looms as a possibility after fisheries management officials announced this week that the stocks are not rebuilding fast enough.
Marine biologists who study fluke and the monitoring committee that makes recommendations on management of the fishery by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council are recommending severe cutbacks in the fluke quota for next year.
In the years following, the regulations may become even more stringent to the point where a closure of the fluke fishery could occur by 2009.
Bruce L. Freeman, former research scientist with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife and until this year, when he retired, the state's chief biologist at the council and commission levels, said the outlook is grim.
"They're talking about a 42 percent reduction from this year," he said. "This is a quota of 13.9 million pounds, down from 23.6 million pounds this year.
"And the National Marine Fisheries Service recommended a reduction to 5.2 million pounds," he said. "This is an extremely severe reduction. This could destroy the party and charter boat fishery."
Commercial and recreational fluke fishermen are facing the four ghostly shades of fisheries mismanagement drifting shoreward in their black dories.
These terrible wraiths are: poor recruitment, environmental lawsuits, intolerable regulations and uncontrolled predation. Their contribution: decimation of the fishery - commercial and recreational.
Freeman explained that recruitment in 2005 was the lowest on record since the 1980s. It was estimated at 14.5 million fish when a year class total of 33 to 35 million fish was expected.
"I personally question the accuracy of the numbers, but that's what they are working with," he said.
The correctness of the figures might be challenged when both New Jersey and Massachusetts reported good recruitment. The other states were down.
Even more unsettling, however, is the increasing realization in fisheries management circles that the fluke plan is not working as hoped. Congress set a 10-year rebuilding schedule for troubled fish stocks, and fluke must be at 204 million pounds by 2010. They are currently at 105 million pounds.
A third-grade achievement level in arithmetic is enough for one to know that, if curtailing fishing is the only way to reach 204 million pounds by 2010, then fishermen are in for trouble.
"It's frightening to think about it," Freeman said. "This is a blueprint for disaster on the waterfront. Fisheries management has no plan to deal with a recovered fishery."
Fisheries management officials are months away from putting together regulations for 2007, but there is already talk of a two-fish possession limit, 18-inch minimum size and six-week fluke season.
Indications are that recruitment was good this year, and, if it totals 35 million juvenile fish, and this happens again in 2007, 2008 and 2009, the biomass could theoretically reach 204 million pounds by 2010.
This is a dream, a classroom exercise in marine management theory. The toll from spiny dogfish alone would probably prevent this. Lump in other predators, disease, environmental factors, and the odds against good year-classes, and, even without fishing, the goal of 204 million pounds is unattainable.
Management officials are unwilling to exercise meaningful control over the primary predator - the spiny dogfish - and unable to do anything about any other factors except fishing.
Controlling fishing has brought the stocks back, and Freeman reminds that this is the rub that management officials face.
"This is not like striped bass," he said. "The stocks were down, regulations were put in place to bring them back, the public supported them, and the stocks came back."
Fluke management is different.
"The stocks are up, age distribution is good, 75 to 80 percent of the fish are older than two years, the stocks are not overfished, there has been an increase in the number of large fish, and the spawning stock biomass is twice the size it was in the 1980s," Freeman pointed out.
These are all good things, goals that management sought, and the public is aware of them. The public does not understand, and no one can explain it to them, the need for severe cutbacks to achieve a utopian goal that is meaningless to everyone except a handful of preservationists.
NMFS has no problem with trying to realize the 2010 rebuilding goal at the expense of the fishing public and the industry that depends on it.
The bureaucrats' argument is that they are bound to comply with a court decision initiated and won by the National Resources Defense Council in 2000 in which the judge ruled that Congress mandated that a management plan for a rebuilding fishery had to have a 50 percent or better chance of achieving the goal.
Raymond D. Bogan, legal counsel for the United Boatmen of New Jersey and New York, said this is the reason flexibility must be included in the reauthorization of the Magnuson Act being considered by the House this week.
"That flexibility has to be in there," he said. "These environmental groups that are fighting for hard numbers and following the dictates of scientists without regard for reality and the public good are writing a policy for disaster."
Bogan said that setting unrealistic rebuilding goals based on poor science and faulty conclusions was never more evident than this week with fluke.
"We predicted this mess would happen the last time they reauthorized Magnuson," he said. "Unfortunately we were unable to get the language accepted in the bill, and look where we are today. If this goes through, as some enviros want, they'll have the laws to eliminate fishermen from the water."
Robert "Dusty" Rhodes, former vice chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Council, said an ironic aspect of the present dilemma is that the quota recommended by NMFS and that recommended by the monitoring committee, are both substantially under the quota of 20 million pounds set in 1994 when the fishery was in trouble.
"Here we are 15 years later with the stocks rebuilt, and overfishing not occurring, and we're faced with quotas less than we started with," he said. "And this is all because of what I call an arbitrary target for 2010. It is the height of illogic.
"Trying to make up the difference between 105 million pounds now and 204 million pounds - the arbitrary goal - three years from now is ridiculous," he added. "It underlines the ridiculousness of fisheries management. Talk about Gulliver's Travels, this is it. Sheer lunacy."
James A. Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said he was shocked at the NMFS recommendation.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "This is glaring proof that the fisheries management process is a failure overall. There are too many people with their own agendas meddling in this.
"It's obvious that the fluke stocks are not in trouble," he pointed out. "They're going up every year, but some people who want us all off the water got to the lawmakers, talked them into writing a law with a rebuilding target that is unattainable, and here we are.
"These congressmen who were brainwashed by extreme enviros don't understand what's going on," Donofrio said. "They don't know about party and charter boatmen who make a living from this fishery. They aren't aware of people in the rental boat business, and in the tackle business. They don't know that the average person wants to take a fluke home to eat."
Donofrio said commercial fishermen were strangely silent when the recreational sector went to bat against excessive cutbacks in the quota last year.
In fact, the environmentalists who were responsible for the lawsuit in 2000 were actively supported by a contingent of commercial netters who were angry at anglers for their stand against them in the late 1990s.
"They had better be with us now," Donofrio said. "If NMFS has its way, and gets the 5.2-million quota that it wants, the commercial sector gets 60 percent - that's about 3 million pounds. There are draggers that can't survive on that either.
"This should be the rallying cry for everyone who fishes," he said. "This should galvanize everyone who enjoys fishing or makes a living from the sea. Everyone should get involved and force NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to recognize what it is at stake here."
Tony Bogan, former member of the Mid-Atlantic Council and a member of the United Boatmen of New Jersey and New York, said the quota recommended by NMFS and adherence to the schedule to achieve the 2010 target represents a disaster.
"This is an enormous step backward," he said. "This will really hurt New York and New Jersey where more than half of the fluke along the coast are landed.
"The numbers don't make any sense," he added. "This is a knockout blow to us. The fluke numbers are the highest they've ever been in memory, and they're talking about restricting us to conserve fish.
"And this on top of porgies and sea bass," he said. "Don't forget that they said at the meeting this week that porgies and sea bass are in trouble, too."
 

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Delaware limits are virtually impossible to fill. In the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake, flounder are basically a forgotten species. My personal experience indicates the stocks are lower, much lower...than managers think.
Now if dogfish and skates and rays were sporting targets, I'm doing just fine.
 
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