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 fisheries...it'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.