Tournament Best Indicator of Fluke Fishery

by John Geiser, 3/27/2008

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association May 2008 Newsletter)


The Jersey Coast Anglers Association will hold its 14th annual fluke tournament June 14, and anglers are hoping it will not be the last.

The JCAA event, with its statewide format and one-day results, provides probably the best information on fluke that scientists or non-scientists can gather in June. Despite this significant contribution to science, the tournament depends on the recreational fishery. Some of the fluke fishing options offered the recreational community this year and last year would have cut out the June event, if adopted.

The JCAA could have opted for a later date, if that had happened, but the valuable data pattern would have been upset. It would be similar to the National Marine Fisheries Service trawl survey being held on different dates or new stations. The real blow, of course, might come next year, if NMFS decides to close the fluke fishery or pushes the minimum size so high that Fortescue and back bay anglers are shut out of the tournament.

It will be tough even so for those anglers this year with an 18-inch minium size. Some Barnegat and Great Bay anglers said that even last year they were hard pressed to land a keeper. In any case, the tournament is on for this year, and JCAA president John Toth promises it will be an exciting event.

"There are loads of prizes to be won from 12 different ports, and our many tournament sponsors will provide numerous door prizes at the Trump Casino," he said. "Last year, approximately 1,500 anglers and their friends showed up at the awards ceremony in the ballroom of the Trump Marina Hotel Casino,'' he added.

Competition this year will get under way at dawn and weigh-ins will be accepted at the 12 stations from noon until 5 p.m. Anglers must designate their station in advance. There are two ways to win in this tournament: by weighing a prize-winning fish at one of the 12 ports June 14, and by being selected by lot for a boat, motor and trailer at a drawing in Atlantic City June 20.

The heaviest fluke caught and weighed in by a tournament angler June 14 earns the fortunate individual the $1,200 first prize in only the port competition for which he or she is registered. That fish has no bearing on any of the other port results or the drawing at the awards ceremony.

The heaviest fluke weighed in each of the port weigh stations brings the angler a $1,200 prize donated by the Trump Marina Hotel Casino. There will be nine additional prizes for the heaviest fish at each port.

The prizes this year will be: 2- Raymarine DS600X color digital fish finder; 3- $750 Boater's World gift certificate; 4- Profish tackle package; 5- MinnKota $400 gift certificate; 6- Shimano rod and reel; 7- Hi-Seas tackle bag; 8- New Jersey Angler Magazine custom rod; 9- Nor'East Magazine rod and reel; 10- Canyon Gear Outfitters gift set.

The grand prize will be an 1801 CC Century boat with a four-stroke Yamaha engine and Loadrite trailer. The package is valued at $30,000. Anglers are reminded that to be eligible for the grand prize they must have their entry affidavit, register prior to the ceremony, and a member of the crew with a ticket must be present at the drawing.

Anglers who are considering entering the tournament either individually or as a team of up to six anglers per boat can take advantage of the $120 early entry fee, which is offered before June 7. After that date, the fee jumps to $150 per boat.

The 12 ports and weigh stations this year will be: Jersey City (Lightship Dock/Liberty Landing); Sandy Hook (Julian's Bait and Tackle, Atlantic Highlands); Shark River (Fisherman's Den, Belmar); Manasquan River (Clark's Landing Marina, Point Pleasant); Barnegat Bay (Southwinds Marina, Forked River); Long Beach Island (Fisherman's Headquarters, Ship Bottom); Great Bay (Great Bay Marina, Little Egg); Atlantic City (Farley State Marina); Ocean City (Fin-Atics); Townsend Inlet (Avalon Point Marina); Cape May (Jim's Bait and Tackle, Cape May); and Fortescue (Higbee's Marina). The tournament will be held rain or shine. Further information can be obtained at the JCAA Web site: http://www.JCAA.org.

The fluke tournament is an important fund raiser for the JCAA. The other source of revenue for the organization is the JCAA High Roller Raffle, which will be held April 29. The eight prizes being offered run from an $805 Shimano TI-30WLRSA reel-Shimano LCX8MHRSA rod combination to a $150 Tsunami TSSD 3000 reel and TFSBC-601 MH rod.

Tickets are $2 and can be purchased from a club representative or call or write the JCAA office. Many fluke anglers are not only concerned about what lies ahead in 2009 and 2010, but are still unhappy with the rules for this season.

The state Marine Fisheries Council decided on the eight-fish limit, 18-inch minimum and season running from May 24 through Sept. 7. Toth admitted that the JCAA membership was almost equally divided between the option chosen and a season running from May 17 through Oct. 6 with an eight-fish limit and an 18 1/2-inch minimum size. "None of the options we had to vote on were good,'' Toth pointed out. "At the marine fisheries council meeting, the overwhelming opinion on this divisive issue was that, if we chose the longer season, we would start the 2009 season with an 18 1/2-inch minimum size.

"Therefore, since we never seem to go down with our minimum size, 2009 would most likely start with a 19-inch or more minimum size, if we went with this option making it all the more difficult to catch legal fish,'' he continued. ""This sentiment was not only expressed by myself, but many, if not most of the party/charter boat captains who have the most to lose with a shorter season,'' he added.

Toth said that he was approached by one of the council members after the meeting who told him that, even if they had chosen the longer season, the fishery might have been closed anyway, if it was determined the fluke quota would be exceeded before Oct. 6. "Therefore, we would not have a longer season, and also we would start the 2009 fluke season with an 18 3/4-inch minimum size,'' he said.



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