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Commercials are taking all the flounder ? period!

28135 Views 84 Replies 44 Participants Last post by  strip
I have read a lot recently on the condition and fate of winter flounder in our waters, and I agree with most of it. But no one will ever convince me that this is a recreational problem or that we should be the ones to take the brunt of severe measures to bring them back. Especially when you consider that we are currently fishing at about 26.5% of what we were back in 1990, while the commercial are about 50% over what they were the same year.

In 1990 recreational anglers in NY State took, 1,106,590 ? pounds of winter flounder while at the same time the commercial fishery took just 640,445 ? pounds, basically giving us about 65% of the catch. It is actually higher than that if you average from 1980-1990, but I didn?t want to go back too far and make this seem like ancient history.

Then just 10-years later in the year 2000 things made quite a turnaround! Commercials took 960,122 ? pounds while recreational anglers took a mere 293,472 pounds! That?s right we?re fishing at 26.5% of what we were in 1990 and the commercials are fishing at 150% of what they had in 1990. And people want to know where all the flounder are going? It?s not the cormorants or the seals or the bass, it?s the inshore and offshore draggers. They?ve gotten so good at what they do that they are now catching the flounder we use to catch before they even get in the bay. And those that they miss, they get them when the flounder head out to sea in the fall.

The numbers don?t lye and they speak for themselves, the problem with this fishery is the commercials and unless we do something to address it they will be the only ones catching them. I?d be the first one to say close it down for everybody, but the fact is we aren?t putting a nick in this fishery.

The series of events that led to this commercialization of the winter flounder have been played out over and over again. We need a commercial moratorium, just like we did when we needed to bring back the bass, but the truth is we will never see one. Do you know why? It?s simple, because the commercials are catching more today than they were before, so to them there really isn?t a problem.

Think about it, ? in those ten years we took recreational anglers from no-bag limit and no season ? I can still remember fishing on some January and February days for flounder ? to what is now essentially a 4- month season with minimum sizes and bag limits. While at the same time doing nothing to curtail the commercial catch.

So please folk?s don?t let anyone fool you, if you took every single recreational angler out of this fishery it would do nothing more than allow for more fish to be caught in the commercial fishery. Just as it has over the past decade.

Hook and Line Only!
George R. Scocca
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Where are the Flounder?

After reading all the posts for the last hour, I think it's safe to say that everyone and everything from commercial to recreational fisherman, seals and stripers, global warming, El Nino, the Yankees losing the World Series, has played a hand in the demise of the winter flounder fishery. I've worked as a deckhand and part-time captain on party boats in the early to mid 1980's and I remember what flounder fishing use to be like. We would sail 2 half-day trips a day and catching several hundred fish a trip was fairly common. Sometimes over 1000 fish would come over the rails. Customers would keep almost everything they caught because no one saw this coming, and at the time they probably wouldn't have believed it considering the amount of fish available. For the most part, only very small fish were thrown back, so part of the blame goes to us, the rec guys. However, I feel the commercial guys are just as much to blame. I don't know the exact numbers, but I recently read somewhere that while recreational catches of flounder have taken a nosedive the last few years, commercial catches have actually gone up. With rec catches so low the last few years, and people losing interest, (I know I have and I love flounder fishing) I find it hard to believe that at the present time the rec guys are hurting the fishery as badly as the commercials are. A lot of party boats don't fish for flounder anymore, or if they do they have cut their seasons short to concentrate on fish they can put their customers on.(fluke, blacks, bass, etc...) Then we end up putting more pressure on those's a vicious cycle. There are so many factors involved, I don't know what the answer is. From what I've seen the last few years, things have not improved very much. What it may come down to, and I hope it doesn't, is a complete moratorium on the winter flounder fishery for a year or two. I understand that that is easy for me to say...the stakes aren't the same for me as they are for people in the industry who need to make a living, but we've pushed the flounder to the limit. Something needs to be done to give these fish a chance to recover. I'm not trying to blame any one group or thing in particular...I think we've all had a hand in it. If anything I've said angers anyone, it wasn't my intention. I'll get off my soapbox now, thanks for hearing me out.
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I agree that the two stock theory is a bit vague. From my experience working on party boats, we would see fish in the spring that recently migrated into the bays. From what I was taught, "new" fish have somewhat of a rough feel on the bottom side (white side) caused by migrating fairly long distances from the offshore winter grounds. Most of those fish were skinny from traveling so far, and it seemed like a majority of those flounder were males. I know because I got "squirted" often enough unhooking the fish for my customers. :) Anyway, this was back in the early to mid 80's. I don't know how much things have changed since then.(except there being a lot less fish) We would see fish that were "residents" that seemed to stay in the back bays year round. For the most part, these fish tended to be big females loaded with roe. So this is why I don't really by the two stock theory too much. There are fish that migrate offshore in the late fall/winter, and fish that take up residence in our bays year round, and I do believe they intermix with each other. The fish the Commercial guys are netting never have a chance to make it into the back bays to spawn. The same thing happened with the fluke in the 80's. That fishery was nearly dead. There would be a line of draggers working a few miles off the beach and the new bodies of fluke working their way inshore never made it into the bays. What's the answer? I suppose moving them offshore and giving these fish a chance to move into the bays would be a start. I'm sure there are many other factors involved, (global warming, predation, etc...) but we need to start somewhere. K, I'm off my soapbox. :)
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