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Captain's Focus

Though fluke don't appear to be in trouble, the fluke fishery may well be after the Jan. 5 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Public Hearing on Summer Flounder Draft Amendment XXVII at 6:30 p.m. in Galloway Township Library at 306 Jimmie Leeds Road.  There's very little that makes sense about fluke management as the public has to release 14-inchers that commercial fishermen can then catch with their gear advantages so anglers can go to a fish store and buy the fish they released. Meanwhile, the ever-higher minimum lengths for recreational fishing results in the capture of almost entirely female fluke that are required for a healthy spawning stock. The 2016 18-inch minimum was a problem for putting keepers in the boat, but the population seemed to be in good shape. Yet, with a 29 percent cut being imposed there's no hope of even holding onto that high minimum length. Only Option 1 provides for 18 inches -- but with a limit of just two fish and a season of merely 59 days that would doom much of the state's party boat fleet. There are no reasonable options. Tom Fote, N.J. ASMFC Governor's Appointee, feels that even the best (Option 5 with a coastwise 128-day season of three fish at a 19-inch minimum) probably won't make the required reduction. Rep. Frank Pallone and Sen. Cory Booker have written to NOAA Fisheries pointing out the economic consequences of the 29 percent reduction in 2017 and another 16 percent in 2018 at a time when the last baseline summer flounder assessment was done in 2013. A new baseline assessment is scheduled for 2017, and the legislators suggested maintaining status quo regulations pending those results rather than creating an economic disaster with data that seems to be inaccurate. Supporting that position may be the best advice the ASMFC could receive. One positive note about this situation is that all the groups, such as JCAA, RFA, SSFFF and United Boatmen are all on the same page in fighting for status quo. The Garden State Outdoor Sports Show kicks off the sportsman's show season at the N.J Convention & Expo Center in Edison from Jan. 12-15. Blackfishing continues to be generally good for the party boat fleet, though Wednesday was slower. Capt. Stan Zagleski said the weather was nice, but there was only a pick on Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands. Tom Hollywood Sr. of Staten Island was high hook with four tog. A 10-pounder was boated on the previous trip. The Big Mohawk from Belmar had a couple of limits, but it wasn't good overall. Large school and small medium bluefin tuna are continuing their unprecedented December run. Capt. Jim Freda says they're still 9 to 20 miles offshore, just as has been the case for some time after showing up very late. Freda joined the crew on Ken Hager's 50-foot Viking out of Hoffman's Marina in Brielle on Wednesday when they found the pods 16 miles out. The mate cast a Tailwalk Gunz stickbait and hooked up a large tuna. Unfortunately, it wasn't a sportfishing catch as everyone fought the 120-pound bluefin during the 45-minute battle. The sea bass season ends with the New Year, but the Jamaica from Brielle is looking ahead to Saturday 2 a.m. to 6 p.m. cod and pollock trips to far offshore wrecks in January and February. Those limited trips cost $140, and reservations are required. Call 732 528-5014.

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