Fluke Fairness In Focus

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The first keeper stripers were taken by East End anglers this last week. They’re few and far between, but it’s a start.The main body of bigger stripers seems to be settled into the New York Bight, gorging on bunker as they start their run up the Hudson River for the spawn. The big mamas are probably already up well into the freshwater.

Commercial nets caught their first weakfish late last week, so by the end of this week there should be enough so that lures will find their mark.

Porgy season opened over the weekend, but there was no life on the ridges in the Peconics, and I haven’t heard of very many being caught in pound traps yet, either. So that fishing might have to wait another weekend.

Water temps in the bays are still barely scratching the 50-degree mark, and the ocean is a good 5 or 6 degrees lower.

As of Sunday, there still was no official word on the fluke season. That may have changed already, by the time this reaches print. The conventional wisdom is that the season should open on or about May 17, and that limits will continue to be five fish at either 18 inches minimum, like last year, or maybe with a small bump up to 18.5 inches. That kind of limit should be just fine in the eyes of most New York anglers—even something to celebrate, in light of some of the restrictions we’ve been saddled with in the past.

Whatever the limits, they will be the same for anglers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, thanks to the National Marine Fisheries Service continuance of regional management for a second year in a row.

But New York’s politicians are remembering the days, just a few years ago, when New York anglers labored under draconian fluke limits of as few as two fish a day, with minimum sizes near 22 inches, while New Jersey and Rhode Island anglers—sometimes fishing right alongside hamstrung New Yorkers—enjoyed bag limits two or three times as great, and minimum size limits several inches smaller.

That maddening inequity was thanks to a NMFS quota formula that used nearly 20-year-old data, seemingly arbitrarily chosen, from an era when catch reporting by anglers and commercial fishermen was vague and poorly tracked. In those days, New York boats were logged as landing an almost absurdly smaller number of fluke than New Jersey boats, and the coastwide quota was divvied up following that deeply flawed baseline.

New York State has sued to force the NMFS to update its baseline information but has gotten nowhere, and lawmakers in Washington have tried to force the issue legislatively. After a similar effort failed last year, U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer jointly announced last week that they would be reintroducing what they’re calling the “Fluke Fairness Act,” which would compel the NMFS to use new baseline data for setting its commercial and recreational quotas.

Of course, the bill got bogged down in the hopeless morass of Washington politics once already, and is likely about a light year away from being reality, even with bipartisan support. But the effort is laudable, and it’s sort of refreshing to see a little across-the-aisle partnership, even if it’s on a layup like fishing regulations. Hopefully, having a new GOP sponsor this time will help it along.

Weather in Florida is supposed to stink it up this week. Someone say a tarpon prayer for me, please.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

Ducks Unlimited Spring BBQ

The Eastern Suffolk Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host its annual spring barbecue on Wednesday, May 13, at the Burnett Field House in Water Mill.

As usual, the event will be a casual afternoon of beers and burgers, with tons of great gun, gear and decoy raffles, and a superb barbecue prepared by Randy Reiss, Mark Borucke, Wayne Bezubek and their crew.

The event will have a “DU Great Gun Giveaway” this year, in which tickets will be sold in sets of 50, and one gun will be won from each set. A 1-in-50 chance at winning a gun are odds that are just about as good as you can ask for.

DU is also selling 50 special raffle packages. For $100, you get $200 worth of raffle tickets and a special ticket for a Mossberg .22 rifle. There will also be the usual sponsor package, for $320, that gets you your DU membership, $200 in raffle tickets, and a ticket in the Mossberg raffle.

Tickets this year are $40 for all you can eat and drink. See you there.

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