Countdown to Flounder Armageddon. New Rules Cripple Atlantic City Area Fishing

margate fishing atlantic city flounder
Family Fun in the Summer

The clock is ticking on those who depend on recreational fishing & boating in Atlantic City, Margate, Brigantine and other Jersey shore towns. Small mom & pop businesses barely have 16 weekends each summer to make a living. Starting MAY 11, it’s gonna get worse.

The enemy (other states) will be voting YES to a take-home limit of 3 flounder @ 19 inches per day in New Jersey. This will put a serious hurting on a key summer business & popular family activity.

South Jersey has an amazing fishery. Other states are jealous. They want to grab/poach more of our Jersey flounder stock.

How do they accomplish that devious goal? Easy. The competing states collectively vote for onerous, foolish and harmful regulations targeted at NJ recreational anglers. That’s how.

And what do we do as NJ fishermen? We sit back and take it. Except for Robin Scott. She may be tiny, but she packs a punch.

LISTEN> Robin Scott of Margate. Her letter to President Trump.. about flounder regulation.

We ask: will our elected state officials (like Frank LoBiondo) step up and protect our Jersey stock of flounder? Will local South Jersey politicians step up to protect the 2nd largest industry in the state of New Jersey?

Most agree: saving the recreational fishing industry and the jobs connected with it, is far more important than building expensive, temporary, un-needed dunes along the South Jersey coast. (note: even Wildwood with their mile wide beaches are being forced to get dunes. WTF.)

Other Mid-Atlantic states pillage our NJ flounder fishing stocks….using their more favorable regulations. Those states have regs that allow for longer seasons and keeper sizes 17 inches and under. Those states are enemy of NJ fishing.

Margate’s Robin Scott often calls out the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council & Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission. These 2 organizations are not friendly to NJ voices. They will do a joint vote about the future of Jersey flounder fishing on MAY 11. The outcome will not be favorable to NJ.

Robin Scott is one of the FEW fishing advocates that is actively trying to overturn the forthcoming regulations. These rules are said to be based on flawed science & research. They were allegedly created to benefit other mid-Atlantic states that want to poach our South Jersey waters.

Robin Scott Margate Fishing
Robin Scott

23 yrs ago, Summer flounder had a 13 inch minimum. You could enjoy recreational fishing at anytime. There were no seasons. Fish were plenty. But over the years, size limits increased.

When flounder keeper sizes increased to 17 & 18 inches…growth of the flounder fishery stalled. As keeper size increased, it actually started to hurt the stock.

18 & 19 inchers are mama flounder. The breeders.

Research shows that male flounder die off by time they are 17 inches. But NJ recreational fishermen have to throw then back. How foolish that we’re forced by flawed regulations…to only catch & keep spawning stock in their prime.

When we throw back all those flounder under 18 inches, many die. We call that a ‘mortality rate’.

True story: Last summer, a South Jersey fisherman reported 77 shorts (flounder under 18 inches) that he had to throw back… order to get one keeper (18 inches) flounder. That keeper flounder was an 18inch spawning female.

Can you see the obvious scam here? We must leave the prime breeders alone.

If you’re a South Jersey bait & tackle shop, it’s time to stop crying and complaining. It’s time to do something. If your seashore business relies on boating, fishing and crabbing, it’s time for serious action…or else. Because, whatever you’ve been doing to fight these bad regulations…..hasn’t been working. Time for a new, last minute game plan. A Hail Mary pass.

One suggestion: Light a fire under Congressman Frank LoBiondo’s you know what. He has the juice. Call me crazy, but the recreational fishing & boating industry is more important to South Jersey than expensive, temporary and un-needed dune building. You can quote us on that.

LETTER sent to US Congress & Whitehouse:

I am Robin Scott, owner/operator of Ray Scottʼs Dock in Margate, New Jersey, the oldest “continuously same family owned” bait, tackle and boat rental business along the New Jersey Atlantic coast.

This small full service marina is on the Intercoastal Waterway a mile and a half from the Great Egg Inlet, 30 miles North of Cape May, New Jersey and the Delaware Bay. Twenty-three years ago anglers rented boats in early April to catch fresh fish for dinner after a long winter.

There was a minimum size limit on summer flounder of thirteen inches but no seasons. In years since, size limits have steadily increased and seasons put in place. Seasons were unnecessary in recreational fishing since they cut off the time before children get out of school for the summer and the time after they go back to school in fall. These prime times for anglers to enjoy quiet proprietorship of the bay were legendary and a major draw to the Jersey Shore.

Seasons also compressed New Jerseyʼs fishing businesses to an average of 16 weekends to earn a living and host our guests safely on now crowded waters. That is, if the weather cooperated and fish were abundant. Fast-forward to proposed regulations for the 2017 summer flounder season, three fish at nineteen inches per angler per day, a season start around Memorial Day and an end right after Labor Day. Stock trends in the years since 1994 are significant.

Fishery managers increased size limits yearly based on the theory that by raising the size of a “keeper” flounder, the catch would be reduced. As long as the sizes remained less than seventeen inches, stocks grew and this appeared to work. At seventeen and a half inches growth flatlined.

Rather than recognizing the significance of this change, it was explained away by very inaccurate science. The next two years stocks took a downturn as the minimum size of a “keeper” flounder in New Jersey was raised to 18”. The easy answer from the fishery managers, “OVERFISHING”; is a term that will get the attention of anyone who doesnʼt know better, and incite conservationists who should be supporting our recommendations as they provide for a sustainable growing fishery, unlike regulations from NOAA.

And now an increase to 19 inches is poised to annihilate the summer flounder fishery in New Jersey. True science based on flounder sex explains why.

Studies conducted by Dr. Patrick Sullivan of Cornell University show that nearly all summer flounder over 18 inches are female. Charter boat captains have been reporting this for years from their cleaning tables.

Dr. Sullivan also reports that males die off by the time they reach 17 inches. No mystery here. We have been forced by regulations to only catch spawning stock in their prime. Annihilation comes as we toss back into the water all those fish under 18” in order to reach the prize. Estimates vary, but the mortality rate of those “caught and returned” fish is huge.

One customer who has been fishing the Margate bay since we opened our doors in 1958, reported throwing back 77 “short” fish to retain one keeper last summer. With the panic-evoking term “OVERFISHING” used as front page news, it has been difficult to get the truth out on an otherwise common sense no-brainer issue. New Jersey holds the mother lode of flounder.

Flounder in New Jersey is not just fishing. It is a lifestyle. Flounder are not large game fish like tuna and marlin, they are dinner. They provide a way for families to share the discovery that dinner does not arrive from Shop-Rite on a styrofoam tray.

Flounder fishing provides families a means to access state and federal waters. The flounder fishery has provided young people a reason to stay in the state and build careers based on the water and fishing, my own family being a prime example.

My son Ray Scott Bonar is an operating engineer in local #825 running the cranes that are building the Army Corp project seawall in Atlantic City. He learned to operate cranes at our marina. He just built a house across the street from the marina. My daughter Rachel Scott attended the University of Pennsylvania. Her acceptance into that prestigious Ivy League school moved forward by her training for a 100 ton Merchant Marine Captainʼs License. In short, we in New Jersey can do a stellar job in growing our fishery if given favorable regulations.

We share the Delaware Bay and must match Delawareʼs 2016 regulations if we are serious about preserving the most important fishery in America. Open season, four fish per angler per day at 16”. Limit quickly, enjoy a fresh flounder dinner, reduce the discards and leave the prime breeders alone. Most important fishery? Yes, it is not New England and not Alaska.

New Jersey is accessible to all. Planes, trains, cars, boats and buses can all bring families easily to New Jersey to experience a lifestyle we consider a stewardship and are eager to preserve and share.

Robin Scott, owner/operator of Ray Scottʼs Dock in Margate

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