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There is a good chance that the fluke regulations for the coming season will not be as bad as expected.

They will be onerous, make no mistake about that. Fisheries management officials cut New Jersey back 40 percent from 2007 ? even further than anticipated. The proposals, however, are not as terrible as we feared they might be.

The talk last fall was of minimum sizes of 19 to 20 inches with a possession limit of two or three fish and a short season. It has not come to that yet.

The state Division of Fish and Wildlife has submitted six proposals to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that it feels will meet the necessary cutback.

The proposal that might agree with most anglers in the state is a season running from May 24 through Sept. 8 with an eight-fish limit and an 18 1/4-inch minimum size. A couple of other proposals that will draw some support are a season running from June 28 through Sept. 8 with a two-fish limit and a 17 1/4-inch minimum, and a season running from July 4 through Sept. 2 with a 17 1/4-inch minimum and an eight-fish limit.

The ASMFC's summer flounder board will rule on the six proposals next week, and, if approved, they will then come back to be discussed by fishermen and one will be picked as final by the state Marine Fishery Management Council.

The rules in 2007 were a season running from May 26 through Sept. 10 with a 17-inch minimum and an eight-fish possession limit.

The problem the council is always faced with in picking rules for the entire state is geography. The south Jersey fluke fishery opens earlier than north Jersey, and south Jersey back bays before anywhere else.

The season running from May 24 through Sept. 8 with an eight-fish limit and an 18-inch minimum would give fishermen about the same length season as last year. This would encompass both Memorial Day and Labor Day, big days for the party and charter boat industry as well as anglers.

The 17 1/4-inch proposals, an increase of only a half-inch over 2007, will not be popular with either south Jersey or the professional boatmen because of the loss of May and so much of June.

Whatever the rules, it is probable that New Jersey anglers will suffer through another fall unable to take home a summer flounder or a winter flounder.

As bad as New Jersey will be hit, New York will be impacted even worse. The ASMFC's board is demanding a 60 percent cutback in the latter state.

New York's proposals include ideas such as a season running from May 24 until mid-July with a 19 1/4-inch minimum and two fish, and a season from mid-May through Sept. 1 with a 20 1/4-inch minimum and four fish.

There still is no word out of Trenton about the new blackfish regulations. The guess is that the Nov. 15-Dec. 31 season will be cut from eight to four fish.

The announcement was made that the weakfish possession limit has been cut from eight fish to six fish. The minimum size remains at 13 inches. The fishing fleet took another "weather day" Friday, and party boat captains were hoping to pick up today or Sunday where they left off Thursday.

Capt. Gary Fagan, Ocean Explorer, Belmar, was out Thursday, and reported improved fishing for blackfish and some ling in 90 to 100 feet of water.

"I fished two spots," he said. "We didn't have a lot of people, but we had quite a few limits on blackfish, and a handful of ling.'

Richie White of Belmar was one of those who had his limit of blackfish. The action was on green crabs and white-leggers.

Capt. Scott Hilliard, Prowler V, Atlantic Highlands, had blackfish and ling action Tuesday when he was out. Unfortunately, participation was off; so he has decided to sail only on Saturdays and Sundays for the next few weeks.

Hilliard said he fished wrecks in 70 to 80 feet of water, and then moved off to 17 Fathom Bank where he enjoyed a "good pick" on blackfish and some big ling. Jake Jakubiak of Long Branch won the pool with a 7-pound cod.

John Bogan IV of Brielle Bait and Tackle has announced that he has openings in his second rod-building class this winter. The classes will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. March 10, 12 and 14. The course is $65 and a $20 deposit is required.

Greg Bogan, also of Brielle Bait and Tackle, said Mike Paras, Lakewood, weighed in a 3-pound, 15-ounce rainbow trout that he caught on 2-pound test line and a Panther Martin spinner in the Metedeconk River.
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