Sharp Cut to ’17 Fluke Harvest

State regulators at the Department of Environmental Conservation had no choice other than to slash the previous year’s fluke rules
Small striped bass have appeared in Three Mile Harbor.

Recreational anglers will have a daily limit of three fish, with a minimum length of 19 inches, when the fluke season opens in New York waters on May 17. The changes are a dramatic reduction from 2016’s five-fish, 18-inch minimum. The recreational fluke season will close on Sept. 21. 

State regulators at the Department of Environmental Conservation had no choice other than to slash the previous year’s fluke rules. The National Marine Fisheries Service had demanded further restrictions after observing a coastal decline in the number of fluke, or summer flounder. “Consistent below-average reproductive success for the last five years may be one cause for the decline,” the D.E.C. said in a press release Wednesday. 

According to the D.E.C., New York initially faced a 70-percent reduction in fluke under a federal state-by-state allocation proposal. It is estimated that the limits announced this week will result in a 30-percent reduction to meet the National Marine Fisheries requirement.

The recreational and commercial catch limits are the lowest since 1993, when the fluke management plan was first put in place, the D.E.C. said. The other Atlantic states that have active fluke fisheries are also expected to cut the allowable size for sport-caught fluke and lower possession limits.

Commercial harvesters are allowed to land fluke in state waters year round, subject to a daily limit of 50 pounds. The minimum commercial length is 14 inches. New York’s share of the region’s commercial quota is just over 432,000 pounds.

If fluke fishing is slow or sifting through all the small ones gets irritating, there is always porgy fishing. North Fork party boats, including the Peconic Star out of Greenport, are reporting decent catches on diamond jigs, with some trips landing keeper striped bass and bluefish. Cherry Harbor on the southwest side of Gardiner’s Island is a traditional spring hot spot for porgies, in case you were wondering.

On the ocean beaches, small striped bass were just about all that were to be had until Saturday’s bad weather put an end even to that. Surfcasters were landing tiny ones on bucktails until the weekend, with a couple of large bluefish mixed in. “It shut down since that blow,” Paulie Apostolides of Paulie’s Tackle Shop in Montauk said.

“These guys, they just have to go fishing,” he said, “Fort Pond has been really busy.” Apostolides said there were walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, white perch, and, for those wetting baits, beefy carp.

Harvey Bennett at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett seconded the freshwater observation and said he had heard the walleye were huge. Bennett’s report on bass included what he said were a few nice fish to the west of Montauk, around Gurney’s, White Sands, and at the Main Beach jetty in East Hampton.

On the bay side, there were small striped bass inside Accabonac Harbor and bluefish up to 15 pounds, terrorizing baitfish, at Gerard Drive and probably squid, out to Goff Point. “That’s been the entertainment,” he said.

Bennett said that the carp were likely to be in an amorous mood about now in Hook Pond, where their population has exploded. He said he wondered if these invaders had changed the nature of the pond’s aquatic vegetation. 

Looking to the weekend, both Apostolides and Bennett expected that the cold weather had held things back as far as fishing was concerned. A warmer trend should bring bigger bass and, at the same time, bigger bluefish will be replaced by  smaller “cocktail” blues, which will stick around for the summer.

Fluke, Bennett said, should be there for the picking in Gardiner’s Bay out to Napeague. 

Among the most notable fish reported in the past week was a 29-pound striped bass jigged up near Shelter Island, Rick Drew at Harbor Marina at Three Mile Harbor said. Drew said bluefish were feeding along our outer bay beaches from Jessup’s Neck to Accabonac and that the bunker had arrived as well. Coincidence? No.