Division of Marine Fisheries Director Steve Murphey has announced the 2020
commercial flounder seasons.
The southern flounder season will open and close as follows:
(1) Sept. 15 to Oct. 6 in the Northern Management Area, which includes Albemarle, Roanoke, and Croatan sounds and their tributaries;
(2) Oct. 1 to Oct. 19 in the Central Management Area, which includes Pamlico Sound, and the Tar, Pamlico, Neuse, and Pungo rivers and their tributaries;
(3) Oct. 1 to Nov. 2 in the Southern Management Area, which includes Core Sound and all internal coastal waters south of Core Sound.
For specific management area lines, coordinates, and maps, as well as gear restrictions, see Proclamation FF-25-2020 [portal.ncdenr.org].
The minimum size limit will remain at 15 inches total length.
The commercial seasons comply with Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan, adopted by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission in August 2019. The plan established the framework for a 62% reduction in southern flounder harvest (compared to 2017) in North Carolina for 2019 and a 72% reduction in harvest beginning in 2020. The reductions are to be achieved through various management measures, including limited recreational and commercial seasons.
Harvest reductions are required because a 2019 South Atlantic Southern Flounder Stock Assessment found that southern flounder is overfished and overfishing is occurring throughout the South Atlantic region. Overfished means the population is too small. Overfishing means the removal rate is too high. North Carolina law mandates that fishery management plans include measures to end overfishing within two years and rebuild the stock to achieve sustainable harvest within 10 years of adoption of a fishery management plan.
The recreational flounder season was announced in February and will run from Aug. 16 through Sept. 30 for internal coastal and ocean waters statewide. Recreational fishermen using gill nets with a Recreational Commercial Gear License may set nets only when both the commercial and recreational seasons are open. Recreational size and creel limits apply.
For more specific information on the recreational flounder season, see Proclamation FF-10-2020 [portal.ncdenr.org].
Commit to speckled trout conservation by making your own personal pledge to release all speckled trout over 20-inches and be entered for a chance to win cool stuff from CCA NC and Eye Strike Fishing.
Submit your Release Over 20″ speckled trout to the program at their website www.eyestrikefishing.com and receive a free decal along with a chance to win awesome prizes from program sponsors.
CCA NC has made every effort to make entering a trout as simple as possible, so you can even enter your trout in real time on the boat using your mobile phone. Set an icon on your phone to point to releaseover20.com and it will take you directly to the entry form. You will need to submit a photo of the trout you released and allow us the option to repost on our social media. We only ask the minimum information from you, such as your name, email (so we can contact you in case you won), and state of capture. If you want a free decal, we must ask you for your address for postage.
You can also preorder Release Over 20 Solar Hoodies while you are on the website and help spread the word with the goal of noticeably improved stocks of speckled trout in our nations waters and more fish for future generations to catch.
Continuing a downward spiral in South Atlantic red snapper seasons, NOAA Fisheries has announced a four-day recreational season for 2020. While expectations in March were that the federal agency in charge of the nation’s fisheries would disallow any recreational red snapper season, the move to a four-day season is hardly a victory for anglers who have seen their access to the fishery severely curtailed for the last decade even as the red snapper population expands.
“A four-day season is marginally better than a zero-day season, but it is profoundly disappointing that this is the best result available after 10 years of intense scrutiny and federal management. This is certainly not where anglers deserve to be with a fishery that is clearly recovering and expanding,” said Bill Bird, chairman of the CCA National Government Relations Committee.
Since 2010, the recreational sector has been allowed to harvest red snapper in South Atlantic federal waters a cumulative total of 37 days despite increasing abundance of fish. In recent years, NOAA Fisheries has maintained that recreational bycatch mortality–red snapper caught and released by anglers when the season is closed that the agency believes do not survive–is calculated to be more than what the sector would be allowed to harvest, resulting in no season or extremely limited seasons.
“Federal recreational data collection methods are not believed to be reliable by most private recreational fishermen, but the manner by which they calculate bycatch mortality for anglers is a particularly questionable component,” said Bird. “As the population increases and anglers encounter–and release–more red snapper, it becomes apparent that the healthier the population is, the less access anglers will have to it. That is the definition of a fundamentally flawed system.”
The introduction of a descending device requirement earlier this year may provide a path to greater access, but until the results can be quantified and determined in a stock assessment, it is unlikely NOAA Fisheries will credit the conservation ethic of recreational anglers with a longer season. Even if NOAA Fisheries supported the descending device requirement, which it did not, the process of quantifying those savings could take years and it is doubtful whether it would truly reflect the degree to which anglers are participating.
“Recreational anglers want to do everything they can to reduce dead discards in every fishery, which is why we actively supported the requirement for descending devices in the South Atlantic even though many anglers already use various tools to successfully release fish alive,” said Ted Venker, conservation director for CCA. “There are questions over everything in this fishery, and if the past is any indication, we expect NOAA to apply the same questionable methods to calculating the true positive impact of descending devices. If that is the only lifeline the fishery has to work with, then perhaps it is time to push for state-based management of this fishery to get a workable system for recreational anglers.”
The South Atlantic red snapper season is set to open July 10 – 12, and on July 17.
Fifteen lucky fishermen won $100 each in a recent N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Multi-Species Tagging Program yearly drawing. The tagging program randomly selected tag numbers from more than 645 fish tags that were turned in by fishermen in 2019. Three tag numbers were selected from each of the five species that are tagged by the program.
The division tags cobia, red drum, striped bass, southern flounder, and spotted seatrout throughout the estuarine and ocean waters of North Carolina. While all tagged fish are released in North Carolina waters, due to the migratory nature of many of these species, tags can be returned from North Carolina or out of state.
The $100 winners who turned in tags for cobia were: Chandler Rosso of Hampton, Va., Marty Bull of Tasley, Va., and Tom Ritter of Norfolk, Va.
The $100 winners who turned in tags for red drum were: Brandon Manypenny of Wilmington, Patrick Woodard of Winterville, and Mark Daughtry of Wilmington.
The $100 winners who turned in tags for striped bass were: Chris Paul of Roanoke Rapids, Jim Minor of Ooltewah, Tenn., and Steve Freeman of Kernersville.
The $100 winners who turned in tags for southern flounder were: Russ Varney of Lexington, Steve Tronu of Newport, and Ronald Byrd of Wilson.
The $100 winners who turned in tags for spotted seatrout were: Todd Schaffer of Wilmington, Ricky Carroll of Virginia Beach, Va., and David Beresoff of Bolivia.
The Multi-Species Tagging Program began in October 2014 and is funded by a Coastal Recreational Fishing License grant. Staff and volunteers place yellow or red tags on 15,000 fish each year.
Fishermen who catch the tagged fish and return the tags with required information to the division receive a letter and personalized certificate with information about the fish, as well as a reward. Those who return a yellow tag marked with “NCDMF” receive either $5, a tagging program hat, fish towel, or fish pin. Those who return a red tag marked with “NCDMF” and “$100 REWARD” receive a $100 monetary reward.
Fishermen must record the species, tag number, date, location captured, total length of the fish, fate of the fish (released or harvested), and the type of gear used to capture the fish. Yellow tags may be reported by phone, but red tags must be cut-off and returned to the division for the fisherman to receive the reward.
Information gathered from tag returns allows researchers to determine species migration patterns, mortality, population structure and habitat use. For more information about the Multi-Species Tagging Program, visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/tagged-fish [portal.ncdenr.org] or contact Michael Loeffler at (252) 264-3911 or Michael.Loeffler@ncdenr.gov.