My name is David Showell and with my wife Judith, for more than thirty-one years, we have been owners of Absecon Bay Sportsman Center. This is a small marina and bait and tackle retail shop located on Absecon Creek serving the greater Atlantic City area.
Here in Southern New Jersey, recreational salt water fishing centers around the summer flounder. From early May thru September almost every recreational fishing trip starts out with the intention of bringing home at least a flounder dinner and possibly putting a good number of filets in the freezer. Even though other fish may find their way into the cooler. Striped Bass, Weakfish, Bluefish, Sea Bass, Tautog, Porgys, Blowfish and others are all secondary targets.
Summer Flounder attracts the majority of anglers to our Atlantic City area waters.
In the early 1990s, flounder were definitely in trouble. When the first size limit of thirteen inches was imposed, it was actually difficult to put keepers in the boat. I understand that conservation was and is necessary. In only a few years the improvement was more than noticeable and my customers were responding to regulations favorably.
Almost all could agree that a flounder under fourteen inches really wasn’t worth filleting. However, as the numbers of undersized flounder increased, the legal size seemed to increase faster. Sixteen inches could still be justified, but as the size limits rose from there, I began to feel a great frustration as my bait and tackle customers complained about throwing back perfectly eatable plate sized fish.
For the last few years there has been a very serious decline in fishing participation, which I attribute one hundred percent to the eighteen inch size limit. While I have not done any strict scientific calculations, I can very clearly tell by the sale counts on my cash register and by the end of month sales tax bills which are getting smaller and smaller.
I’ve been on the water with charters fishing on a beautiful summer day in the middle of the constricted Inter Coastal Waterway and not had another fishing boat pass me for hours at a time. My charter fishermen have had plenty of summer flounder on the line every day. Most that I would have considered very good “Eaters” and even more frustrating, they would be legal for commercial fishermen to sell to the local seafood shops. Only a few make the eighteen inch legal limit.
What will happen if the size limit goes to nineteen inches? Absolutely nothing good. I can’t even imagine a plan to continue selling bait and tackle at a level necessary to provide a profit and maintain my property and feed my family. The small limit is actually a moot point as there are very few anglers who even hope to put a nineteen inch “doormat” in the box .
Thanks for the attention, and I really want to be in business in 2018.