Thursday, July 13, 2017

Flounder regulations change reflects concern for flatfish

Flounder caught on a DOA shrimp!
The three species of flounder that can be caught in local waters have shown declines in their numbers via marine research. The southern, summer and Gulf flounder are now under new regulations in South Carolina designed to protect their stocks for the future of recreational fishing. The changes are designed to be a long-term fix to the issue of increased fishing pressure that is in direct correlation to the increase in saltwater fishing license sales. The legal length for keeping a flounder increases from 14-inches to 15-inches as of July 1, 2017.
In addition, the daily bag limit and the daily boat limit for keeping flounder have been reduced. Anglers can only claim 10 flounder per day now, down from the 15 flounder limit that was in place since 2007. The maximum daily boat limit is now set at 20 flounder per day, a limit which addresses fishing trips for larger parties or charters. The hope for flounder recovery relies on their own ability to reproduce, with the new regulations giving smaller fish a greater chance to reach spawning age.

Judging the health of any specific stock of saltwater fish can be tricky, especially considering that flounder can swim from inshore to offshore, and they can migrate across state lines, exposing them to different regulations. However, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources has solid data sets for many species thanks to the dedication of the Marine Resources Division. Their trammel net surveys over the past twenty years in waters such as those of the ACE Basin reveal a decline in the catch and release of flounder. It would be hard to imagine a mixed bag of saltwater fish without any flounder among them. If the 2017 changes produce the desired effect, we can expect to see more flounder than ever, keeping this fishery sustainable and preserving part of our outdoor heritage.

To view the feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about coastal flatfish click here.

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