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Commercials are taking all the flounder ? period!

28184 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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NYSDEC and other interested parties are currently gathering data in order to help plan out the future of managing the winter flounder. There really isn?t going to be much movement until then.


You make some excellent points, but I never said they were the only ones to blame for the decline. Many of the factors you mentioned may also have contributed to it, but the fact is that commercials are now taking the vast majority of winter flounder ? about 80% just last year. And I believe that needs to be addressed to bring back the winter flounder.

All is not lost however, and I believe this fishery will be the next rebuilding project for fisheries managers. We need to stay educated on the proceedings and to help out if called upon.
George: The draggers have been regulated since 1990 in a few ways.
1-Dragging is no longer allowed within a 2 mile radius of any south shore inlet.
2-A minimum mesh size of 5 1/2 inch throughout the net, this results in signifigantly less bycatch and retention of undersized flounder.
3= Trip limits, there are times of the year when the limit might be as little as 70 lbs per day.
Remember when we had great flounderr fishing? That was the good old days when we had the 3 mile limit and the Russian, Bulgarian, Portuguese and Spanish factory trawlers working 24-7 right offshore. Seems to me that more is wrong with the flounder population than just dragger pressure on the resource.There have been some very interesting theories put forth on this post and I feel it is unfair to put all the blame on the commercial sector. LATER
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I?m aware of the dragger line being moved, but I guess it wasn?t enough as evidenced by their numbers going up instead of down. As I mentioned in the last post, I agree with many of theories posted here and I?m not saying that commercial fishing is totally responsible for the decline. But what I am saying is that if you?re looking to reduce mortality in an effort to bring back the winter flounder you need to first identify whose catching all the fish, and it?s obvious that the draggers, both inshore and offshore, are now doing all the damage.

There?s absolutely no sense in reducing the recreational catch any further, because if we do there will no longer be a recreational fishery.
Another note...

Another possility is a number of years back when our fluke population wasn't up to par many more private boaters were targeting flounder throught the summer,before we had the cutoff date.Just my 2 cents worth.
Value of Flounder

Another thought, what is the value of flounder to the fising industry. After fishing for a month for flounders with almost NOTHING, next year Im going to keep the boat on blocks.

No bait purchased, no fuel, no flounder rigs, no early work for marina etc.

Now I am fine with a few fish to take home, but sitting in the cold with no..and I mean no bites is pathetic.

And all to blame on a " few " draggers.

What about the future of the Shinne**** Star? He is a fisherman..getting his future hijacked by draggers.

I wonder how much commerical value Flounders have on the open market for sale, as opposed to a recreational fishery which is as good as closed, no one is catching. It is only a matter of time when people stop to fish for flounders.

I bet if you add up the reports of ALL of the flounders caught on this website it will not add up to one haul of a dragger.
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Do the math, George

In your written opinion, you stated that in 1990, the recreational fishermen caught 1,106,590 lbs. of flounder.

In the next paragraph, you stated that in the year 2000, the recreation fishermen caught 293,472 lbs. which you said was less than 5% of what they caught in 1990.

You then go on to state that numbers don't lye (sic).

If you break out your pocket calculator, you'll find that the correct percentage is 26.5%

Numbers may not lie, but if we don't make an effort to pose in informed argument to the NMFS, they will think that we didn't bother to stay awake through sixth grade math, no less high school.

I agree that the commercial industry is harvesting a disproportionate amount of all fisheries. But let's get the facts straight before we fire the cannons.
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Do all the math, buckley

I apologize for the mix-up in my numbers and I?ve corrected it in my previous posts, but I?m not sure how that would fan anything. I did notice however that you missed my calculations on the commercial side. It seems I underestimated their increase over the past ten years, they?re not fishing at 140% they?re fishing at 150%.

So lets see, we?re now at 26.5% and they?re at 150% - hardly sounds fair to me.
I gotta say I just don't get some of you guys.
Do you think the commercial guys are sitting around taking the blame off us and putting it on themselves?.**** no!
They would throw us under a bus and keep right on fishing till the last flounder is caught.
I hate it when I hear recreational guys saying things like"Seals" "Stripers" "fishermen keeping shorts" or "I'm happy with a handful of fish" or whatever.
Wake up boys George is right on the commercials own the flounder right now.
They also have to much sway with NMFS.
Let's not help there cause o.k.....................Bucktailer and the other guy attacking George over his mathematical error.
If we really are gonna get things straightened out we'd better stick to eachother like glue and fight hard!
The times I have been on a party boat
never seen anyone keeping any shorts.
The staff and crew's on these boats
conducted themselves like professionals!
They measured every fish that looked like a keeper and obviuosly threw back
all shorts.
If I ever witnessed and I hope you would too notify the proper authority
of ilegal activity on that party boat.


I think the flounder fishery is is in the same state the bass was . We need to find a happy median . If that is possible .Just Look at the fishing reports .When a party boat Posts a report that the whole boat took 16 keepers that's pathetic!Something has to be done.I took my son to the shinne**** canal .All day 2 fish were taken that's sad.When I was a kid 3 people could fill a garbage can . Those days are gone .Look what's happening to the cod !Let me know how I can help . Letters etc.

It was never my intention to criticize your work. My point is that in spite of the restrictions that you mentioned, commercial landings have increased, while recreational landings declined.

Fact is, draggers are currently landing the bulk of winter flounder in this state, while recreational anglers are slowly being eliminated from the fishery altogether.
It is important to distinguish the commercial draggers from commercial rod and reel fishermen. Commercial rod and reel guys don't even fish for flounders and they should not be considered in the same category.
Let the fish recover!

I believe that each species of gamefish should be given one year in five to recover, be it marlin, mako, mackerel or yellowfin.
We could stagger the years so that other species could be pursued, but during that year, fishing for flounder (for example) would be banned to recreational and commercial fishermen in toto (Toto...I have a feeling we're not in Kansas, anymore).
This would allow each species a time for recovery so that all interests would be better served.
Shutupandfish: Thanks for enilghtening the public!!



Oysters,Lobsters,Black fish,Flounder
are all on the decline!
Some all ready more than others.
Whats next?
There are only a handfull of bayfisherman left. They can barely
make a living anymore.
Party boats next in line?
Whats the cost these days? Like $45 for 1/2 a day.
Now you want to take a kid fishing your
looking at almost $100
This will probably be another industry
also pushed to the limits like the
People will stay away due to the lack of
Its a shame whats happening.
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George you are on the money.The commercial guys are solely responsible for devastating the winter flounder as well as the blackfish fisheries.Working on the water I have been afforded the opportunity to witness the carnage first hand.A moratorium should be imposed on dragging for flounder and trapping blackfish
Bad news and Good news.....

Hi guys,

First the bad news:

I spoke to Alice Weber over at the DEC Marine Fisheries Unit in Setauket today. I was calling to verify the weakfish meeting schedule (April 18 @ 7pm at the Setauket office). While speaking to her I tried to get the details on the fluke regs for this year. She told me that it had not been decided yet and explained to me the problems and possibile concerns with going with some of the different options. She told me that the head boat and charter boat lobby was pushing for the smallest size limit with the highest daily limit (obiously). I explained that I felt the DEC was there to do what is best for the species, despite what the lobbies may want. She commended me on my idealism.

Ms. Weber explained the issues with reaching the target level set for the species comeback. She said that it is very obvious that the fluke have responded very well but the target has not yet been reached, so they are still managing it very strictly. It is a matter of either having many small cuts, or one big one if the species collapses again or the quota is over shot.

Since we were on the topic of species of concern and regulations, I asked why nothing had been done about the flounder collapse as of yet. She told me the current regulations were what were asked for by the recreational fisherman almost 10 years ago. I pointed out that the flounder were in trouble then and have gotten worse every year since. Ms. Weber pointed out that back then, the greater concern was on reducing the mortality rate of released fish. She said that goal has been met and far surpassed. She also said that, that is because not as many people are fishing for them any more.

I asked Ms. Weber about the commercial fishing of flounder, dragging and fykes (I was not familiar with fykes until this thread) She stated that the draggers are harvesting an offshore population of fish that has rebounded well. She also stated that fykes contribute only a small amount to the commercial catch and are therefore not much of an issue. I asked about the offshore population being the same population that migrates into the bays in the winter and she told me that they are beginning to beleive that there are different populations. An offshore population that is responding well and an inshore population that is struggling. They are also looking to the possibility of some natural causes for the decline of the inshore fish. She also told me that the dragger season closes for six months of the year through the summer.

So I asked about a by-catch issue with the summer fluke draggers catching flounder. She said that the gear restrictions on fluke draggers are designed to allow 50% of 14 inch fluke through. Therefore the flounder 14 inches and smaller should be able to pass through as well.

I also inquired about the roller gear used for tautog and sea bass. I had heard of a possible size reduction on rollers. Ms. Weber said the current gear has an 18 inch maximum size and there are no plans on reducing it. She also said that the commercial daily limit is only 25 tog and that not many are doing it. The greatest problem is from the JERSY boats fishing the Western reefs.

So here are a couple of questions that come to mind while writing this that I didn't think about while talking to her:

1) If the commercials are harvesting an offshore population, what the heck are those draggers catching right now only a mile or two off of the South Shore? We have all seen them this season. What other species are there to harvest there this time of year?

2) The fluke dragger nets are designed to release half of the fish 14 inches or less. That may work in an ideal situation, but along the South Shore, you can see the dragger fleet working like a train about a mile between each boat and slightly staggered. Those fish that have been released by one staggered group of draggers are just run over by the next sucession of draggers. So you have 50% of 50% of 50% and so on. But it is all legal.

Now for the good news:

Wal-Mart in Middle Island just got in some Storm Wild Eye shad in the 5" bunker color. He only had about a dozen left but there are more on the way. I was calling there sooooo much, that the sporting goods manager, John, finally contacted another store down South and is getting their stock. He only got in a small shipment today, but more are on the way!
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Wild eye shad


What do you use the wild eye shad for?
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