Fluke and Sea Bass

by Paul Haertel
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association November 2017 Newsletter)

We know there are a lot of anglers out there who are very angry with our fisheries management process. There have been many complaints about poor science, mismanagement of certain species and unfair regulations. More specifically, people are really upset about the lower quota on fluke which forced NJ into a reduced bag limit and a season that was shortened by 24 days including three weeks of prime time this past September. After fluke season closed on 9/5 there was little left for inshore fishermen to fish for. At that time, we were only allowed to keep one blackfish and sea bass season was completely closed from 9/1-10/21. Furthermore, there were very few striped bass or bluefish around. Many charter, party and private boats particularly in central and southern NJ remained tied to the dock while at least some boats in the northern part of the state settled for porgies. It might not have been so bad if these species were really in trouble and further conservation was needed. However, sea bass are rebuilt to 230% of their targeted spawning stock biomass and we are still facing more stringent regulations just about every year.

However, outraged anglers will soon have a chance to do something about it rather than just complaining on the internet. The joint meeting of the ASMFC and the MAFMC will be held from 12/11-12/14 in Annapolis, MD. Amongst many other fisheries issues, new addendums and specifications for fluke and sea bass for 2018 will be discussed at this meeting. The agenda will not be available until about two weeks prior to the meeting so we do not yet know the exact time and date when fluke and sea bass will be discussed. A good showing by the public could influence our fisheries managers to make a positive change. In fact, JCAA is considering hiring a bus to transport people to the meeting provided there is enough interest. At the very least, we intend to schedule carpooling. We are hopeful that some of our member clubs or other organizations will chip in to help defray the cost of the bus trip. Those who are interested in helping or are in need of a ride may call JCAA at (732)506-6565 or send an email to

While much of the news for fluke and sea bass has been glum, there is some cause to be cautiously optimistic about the fluke and sea bass regulations for next year. The preliminary MRIP numbers for wave 4 (July-August) just came out on 10/16 and they appear to be favorable. Regarding fluke it seems that most states will harvest less than their intended target quota for this year. This could lead to somewhat more lenient regulations for next year but the numbers given so far are just preliminary. They are not yet final nor are they complete. Below are some of the numbers from NOAA’s website that we might be most interested in since we could be in a region by ourselves or in a region with CT and NY. Wave 5 data (Sept.-Oct.) will add just a few fish for NJ since the season ended on 9/5. The fluke seasons for CT and NY ended on 9/21 so when the wave 5 data comes out, their numbers will increase but I don’t expect it to be too significant.

MRIP Numbers for Fluke (pounds)

NJ1,442,827 2,323,8741,227,619*

*The 2017 Numbers are through wave 4 which is up to August (pounds)

Regarding sea bass, NJ caught many more than it did in recent years and will probably go over 1 million pounds after waves 5 and 6 are factored in. NY will probably add a significant amount in waves 4 and 5 but should still come in way below what they caught last year. I estimate CT might add another 150,000 lbs. for waves 5 and 6, Rhode Island might add close to 300,000 lbs. and MA perhaps just 50,000 lbs. as they are closed during wave 6. (Estimates are based on what was caught during those waves in 2016) Overall, it seems like the northern region will end up catching significantly less seabass than in 2016 which is potentially good news for the 2018 regulations as well. Still, I have to emphasize that it is very important to attend the ASMFC/MAFMC meeting and request a higher quota. Below are some of the MRIP numbers for states in the northern region.

MRIP Numbers for Sea Bass (pounds)


*The 2017 Numbers are through wave 4 which is up to August (pounds)

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