NC Marine Fisheries announce 2020 recreational flounder season

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — People love eating and fishing for flounder especially living at the coast.

Last year, North Carolina put time limits on flounder fishing for both commercial and recreational fishing. This was a first for the state.

Many fishermen weren’t happy about the new restrictions.

The state has a wide variety of fish and according to North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission flounder is currently the most wanted.

“It’s a well known fact that people eat a lot of flounder,” Tex’s Tackle owner Tex Grissom said. “They love it. It’s available in just about any restaurant you go to.”

The overwhelming love of the fish is why the state adopted Amendment 2 which gives people six weeks to catch and harvest flounder.

Grissom says he hopes the new rules will help the industry return to its norm.

“Hopefully in the long term will rebuild the stocks to where it will have more flounder in the future, and hopefully get back to our regular year long season,” Grissom said.

Captain Jot Owens says flounder fishing makes up a big part of his business.

“Some of the fish, and some of the founding entities have gotten better over the last year or so,” Owens said. “It’s become a very popular fishery.”

Grissom says the lack of fishing gear is a concern.

“What’s hurting us is the lack of sales for some of flounder hooks and bucktails, and that thing is pretty specific to that fishery,” Grissom said. “We’re looking at maybe selling those particular products for about two months and that’s it. Rather than year round.”

Grissom believes the time limit changes are impacting businesses, tourism, and more.

“Since the closure, a lot of my customers are traveling to other states,” Grissom said.

In August 2019, the commission adopted Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. The plan established the framework for a 62% reduction in southern flounder harvest (compared to 2017) in North Carolina for 2019 and a 72% reduction in harvest beginning in 2020 to be achieved through various management measures, including recreational and commercial season closures.

Consequently, the commercial and recreational southern flounder seasons closed Sept. 4. Because the peak of the 2019 recreational season had already occurred, the recreational season was closed for the remainder of the year.

“Preliminary estimates of recreational catch indicate this closure resulted in a recreational harvest reduction of 16% in 2019,” NCDMF wrote in a news release.

The commercial season reopened for a short period in the fall.

Preliminary landings data indicate the commercial season closure resulted in a commercial harvest reduction of 44% in 2019. The reduction was higher for the commercial sector because the peak commercial harvest had not occurred prior to the Sept. 4 closure.

The Division of Marine Fisheries analyzed a variety of scenarios for the 2020 recreational flounder season, including weekend openings with weekday closures, two-week stand-alone seasons, and holiday openings. However, the division determined these types of seasons would likely not result in the needed recreational harvest reductions.

Reductions in harvest are required because a 2019 South Atlantic Southern Flounder Stock Assessment found that southern flounder is overfished and overfishing is occurring throughout the region (North Carolina through the eastern coast of Florida). Overfished means the population is too small. Overfishing means the removal rate is too high.

North Carolina law mandates that fishery management plans include measures to end overfishing within two years and rebuild the stock to achieve sustainable harvest within 10 years of adoption of a fishery management plan.

Division of Marine Fisheries Director Steve Murphey has announced that the 2020 recreational flounder season will be Aug. 16 through Sept. 30 for internal and ocean waters of the state.

The minimum size limit will remain at 15 inches total length, and the creel limit will remain at four fish per person per day during the open recreational season.

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