Flounder fishing isn’t floundering at the shore
There is good news for New Jersey flounder anglers and it comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency has agreed that New Jersey’s summer flounder regulations are in federal compliance and there will be no penalties imposed on the state or its anglers. Previously, NOAA had argued that the state was out of compliance with federal regulations and there was a very serious possibility the summer flounder fishery could have been shut down.
So, until the end of the season on September 5, you can keep three fish with a minimum 18-inch length. That is unless you are fishing in Delaware Bay where there is a 17inch minimum or Island Beach State Park where there is a 16inch minimum. Never say regulators never want to complicate things!
Since flounder are starting this week’s column we might as well stay with them. The back bays all up and down the coast are lined with the flatties. The downside is that not many of them meet the legal minimum size. A good example comes from Downingtown’s Bill Mendenhall who, along with his son Bill, Jr., visit Margate at least on a weekly basis. On one recent trip Bill’s group had 94 fish, but just two measured up. He followed that up with another trip to Margate’s back bays and had 112 flatties and only three keepers. What we learn from this is that you will not be bored but you will not be taking many fish home for dinner.
Nine-year-old Karli Beighley, of Avondale in Delaware County, did get to take home a good one. She grabbed a 22-inch fish from the vicinity of Great Egg Harbor Inlet. Don Mace, his son Zach, and Joe Dusko, all from Pottstown, tried their luck in the ICW between Ocean City and Strathmere and hooked a total of 28 flounder, with four in the box. Don said most were caught on Gulp! and a couple on minnows.
If flounder are not high on your list there is plenty more from which to choose in the back bays and out in the surf. Black seabass and triggerfish seem to be everywhere, although there is a measly two fish bag limit on the seabass. Weakfish, striped bass and bluefish also are swimming in the back, probably chasing the big schools of peanut bunker that have moved in. Most of the weakies are fairly small but the blues can go up to 5 pounds and there have been a few stripers over 20 pounds weighed-in lately. Then there’s kingfish. Hit the surf or jetties and you should have little trouble filling your cooler. I almost forgot to note that there also are eels in the back bays. So be sure you have some way to get a grip on
the slippery guys so you can unhook them. I understand they are very good eating but I never have given them a try.
Offshore there is a good bite on bluefin, yellowfin and big eye tuna so far all over the coastline. There are not many reports of huge fish but a 40 or 50-pound tuna will require plenty if not all of your stamina to bring it up to the boat. I didn’t hear anything about sharks this past week, though they were quite the catch a couple weeks back as noted in my previous write-up.
Crabbing all across the coast remains excellent to date.
Triggerfish have moved in on Delaware. Triggers up to 3-pounds are being caught at the Cape Henlopen State Park, Sites 10 and 11 and the Outer Wall. Seabass are plentiful at the Delaware Reef and Site 11.
Like New Jersey, the Delaware surf is loaded with kingfish ready to bite at any time lately. Most of the anglers are using bloodworms and some nice, decent sized flounder are being caught around the Indian River Inlet rocks.
I know many, if not most of you, say there is no enforcement of fishery regulations, especially in the ocean miles off the coast. Well, Bob Michener, a long time friend from Ivyland, Pa., was out in the Wilmington Canyon tuna fishing when he was boarded by the crew of a large Coast Guard cutter out of Cape May. The Coasties checked everyone’s ID, permits, life jackets and measured each of the tuna in the box to ensure compliance with all the regulations/codes. Bob noted that the boarding party could not have been more courteous and friendly during their check. So, let that be a wake up for you to make sure everything is in order when you head out. It’s the least we can do out on the water.
Crew members from a large Coast Guard cutter from Station Cape May prepare for an inspection boarding of Bob Michener’s boat some 70 miles offshore in the Wilmington Canyon.