I've been reading fishing reports during this years early season flounder fishing. The fishing has been disappointing to say the least for most of us. But it suprises me when I hear recreational guys calling for a shutdown of the fishery or more aggressive recreational limits. I feel that the recreational angler is not the problem when it comes to the lack of winter flounder, and I have a theory on what is.
Has anyone noticed that as the fluke fishing has improved, the flounder fishing has declined. As we all know, the marine ecosystem is based on big fish eat little fish. It's been documented many times that if a species becomes too abundant, another species usually suffers. I was fluking last year, catching one short after another in Moriches Bay. I noticed that the fluke would sometimes spit up small bait fish that at first looked like tadpoles. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the fluke were spitting up baby flounder. I talked to the owner of the fishing station about my experience and he told me an interesting story. He said studies done by fishery biologists usually show that the flounder have a succesful winter spawn, and there are good numbers of flounfer fry in the bay in the spring. But as may and june arrive, the fry start to become more and more scarce. In short, the hordes of fluke that come into the bay, eat most of the baby flounder. And since the fluke are too small to keep, they do it all summer.
The ASMFC, NMFS just don't get it. You cannot effectively manage one fishery at a time. Everything affects everything else. Until these organizations realize this and come out of the dark-ages of fishery management, no real progress will be made. Recreational fisherman have always been too inefficent too put a serious dent in any fishery (saltwater at least).