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Fishing - New Jersey New Jersey Fishing Reports and Information covering Sandy Hook south to Cape May

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Old 12-31-2014, 08:48 AM
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Default Winter Flounder

Yeah, I know the season closes Jan 1, but curious if anyone here ever tries for them (except for Jason Colby who hangs on Franks forums... JC)

No-show fish stop dredges in Cape

Cape May Harbor was designated a breeding ground for winter flounder, so the area can't be disturbed from January through May. But locals say they've never seen winter flounder there.
Marina owners and commercial fishing docks in the Port of Cape May are banding together to fight a wintertime ban on dredging designed to protect a fish that doesn't seem to exist there."I've never seen a winter flounder here. I've tried. I went fishing for them three times and never caught one," said Bob Lubberman, owner of a marina at Schellenger's Landing.Lubberman used to catch winter flounder when he lived in Connecticut, so he knows what they look like. He heard they used to be caught in nearby Jarvis Sound, but that was years ago.It's much the same up and down a landing that includes numerous marinas, bait and tackle shops, whale-watching vessels, seafood restaurants and markets, and the second-largest commercial fishing port on the East Coast. There is no commercial fishery for winter flounder, also called blackback flounder, and there are no reports from saltwater anglers reeling them in, and yet a decision made two decades ago to declare the manmade Cape May Harbor an "essential fish habitat," or EFH, for the species prevents dredging from Jan. 1 through May 31. The ban has also prevented some beach replenishment work inNew Jersey and other marine projects during this time of year."We've never caught a winter flounder. I've never seen one in my life," said Ernie Utsch, who owns Utsch's Marina with his brother Charlie.Utsch said he knew a family of fishermen who regularly caught them from Stone Harbor north where the back bays are deeper. They are also known to exist in back bays in Atlantic and Ocean counties, where there is deeper water and eel grass.Jeff Reichle, who owns the commercial dock Lund's Fisheries, said in his 41 years in business, he has never seen a winter flounder caught there."Yet we're mapped as an area winter flounder come and lay eggs. Therefore we can't dredge in the winter and have to dredge when the boats are in the slips, which is a huge problem for us," said Reichle.That's why Charlie Utsch was running his dredge all day Tuesday and will run it all day today. The boats are finally out of the water following the fall striped bass run, and the dredging ban begins Thursday.Ernie Utsch said the ban ends right as the summer boating season kicks in."I'm trying to do commerce and business here, and it just doesn't work. You have to take the pilings out to dredge. We always used to dredge in January, February and March because there were no boats here," said Utsch.The New England Fishery Management Council manages the species and two decades ago mapped out EFH for the stocks that live in southern New England and Mid-Atlantic waters. Cape May Harbor, a manmade waterway created by coal-powered dredges early in the 20th century, was somehow made the southernmost range of winter flounder breeding.Delaware Bay is not EFH for the species, possibly due to too much turbidity and sediment. The flounder come into estuaries in the winter and adhere clusters of eggs to the sea floor, but too much sediment can cover them and increase the time it takes eggs to hatch or cause egg failure."We are the southernmost section of the breeding area," said Jeff Kaelin, who handles government relations for Lund's Fisheries and serves on the New England Council's Habitat Committee.Kaelin is working on getting the map redrawn to eliminate the harbor area and move the line north."I'm not sure how far north the line will be drawn. Egg Harbor has blackbacks. I think we have a very good opportunity to have it changed to take into account the manmade nature of Cape May Harbor and sedimentation. The fish have not shown up in surveys for a decade or more," said Kaelin.In spite of protests, agencies that regulate dredging, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife, follow the lead of the New England Council and enforce the dredging ban.Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said all the states signed on to the winter flounder measures. Winter flounder stocks on the East Coast have been declining for decades, a problem blamed on overfishing, climate change and habitat changes, including those caused by dredging.New Jersey does have a fishery for them from March 1 through Dec. 31, allowing two fish per day at a minimum size of 12 inches.The more popular flatfish in this area are summer founder, also known as fluke, which have eyes on the left side of their body. Winter flounder have both eyes on the right side.Winter flounder are much smaller than summer flounder, topping out at about two pounds, and like very cold water. They have a protein in their blood that acts like antifreeze. They have a very small mouth and are caught with small hooks.Lubberman used to spear them in Long Island Sound a quarter century ago and has one idea why they are not found locally."In Connecticut they don't like the gooey mud. They like sand. The marinas have gooey mud. It's just not what they like," said Lubberman.He said moving the line makes sense."I have no doubt it will have no impact on the winter flounder population," said Lubberman.Charlie Utsch, meanwhile, will continue running the dredge up until the deadline. He worked the dredge back and forth Tuesday, pumping a slurry mix of water and sediment to the marina's two-acre dredge spoils site
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Old 12-31-2014, 09:57 AM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

."I've never seen a winter flounder here. I've tried. I went fishing for them three times and never caught one," said Bob Lubberman, owner of a marina at Schellenger's Landing

3x's eh? Wow if I applied that same logic to my striper exploits
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Old 12-31-2014, 10:18 AM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

yeah, for shore fishing (almost any fishing for them, actually) it's best to chum

I know some guys get them from the bulkheads in the shark river, though I never actually went there. From shore I used to get them in late april/may at plum island/sandy hook, on the flats... though I'm sure the structure has changed since the new bridge was built.

Allegedly they were in the back down here behind Ventnor and presumably up behind Brigantine, my father in law caught them behind Ventnor a long time ago ... I just don't know anyone who tries for them or knows any current info.
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Old 12-31-2014, 11:05 AM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

Always the spring ritual here in the late '60's. Dad would get the boat in the water, plug a little along the sod for stripes then head to the edge of the channel. Chum pot filled with cat food, a long bamboo pole with a plunger lashed to the end and sometimes the clam tongs. Spreader bars with small hooks and blood worms. Double headers were the norm back then.

I know there are a few guys that'll 1/2 heartedly target them here now, but it hardly seems worth the effort.
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Old 12-31-2014, 11:40 AM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

Even if they are there, with a 2 fish limit it's ridiculous... unless you are desperate

Pretty sure some small taps I get during early spring fluke fishing are actually winter flundies but never have a small enough hook on
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Old 12-31-2014, 02:44 PM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

My sister-in-laws husband got the notice up here in the cheese quake creek, he can't dredge his marina till may. I have caught flatties up here in the RB in March/April when I am targeting the stripes. An extra rod with a piece of clam or worm does the trick.
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Old 01-01-2015, 08:20 AM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

arguably cheesequake creek is essential habitat, we know winter flundies are up there every year.

I'm going to keep a flounder rod (along with my FLOUNDER rod) with me this spring. Ya never know.
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Last edited by RobS : 02-09-2015 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 01-01-2015, 01:35 PM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

I target them in Monmouth county. Great fun on light tackle.
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Old 02-06-2015, 12:35 PM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

Rob-I get a lot of charters from NJ that come up to Quincy each spring to fish with me. They have told me many stories of "how it used to be". No limits, 100 or more fish a day!
Almost all rivers/estuaries in NJ had them in March and April and then again for a fall run. Same stories as when I was a kid growing up on Long Island (NY). I worked on party and charter boats in the 70's and we were able to load up easily. I was also a commercial fish cutter and I was constantly cutting flounder from all over the place. In the early spring, the yield was always lowest as the flounder taken just outside the bays were full of roe. Draggers have/had no controls and took as many as they could get. Often, the size average was less than a pound even with the roe which accounted for 2-3 ounce fillets.
I believe this "common practice" contributed (greatly) to the demise of the flounder populations south of Cape Cod. In that area of the Atlantic, the draggers had mostly picked off the cod by the early 80's along with the whiting and then they put a big dent in the ling populations as well. In the cooler months, it was always a common practice for them to "switch over" to flounder when they depleted the populations of cod in any area. Cod was usually their "1st choice".
In The Gulf of Maine, the draggers have been doing a great job of trying to make cod extinct for the past several decades which means they mostly left the flounder alone after depleting them 20-30 years ago. They have been coming back stronger and stronger each year and the fish have been bigger than any of you can remember from the 70's! Recreational fishing effort has been increasing in Boston Harbor as well but the fishing keeps getting better!
That goes to show you that hook and line fishing DOES NOT deplete flounder like you have seen south of The Cape. Your "flounder issues" are most likely a combination of run off of pesticides, chemicals, organics (poop), etc. AND commercial efforts keeping the breeding stock just this side of "extinct". If there was a commercial limit of 2 fish/day like the recreation limit and if you cleaned up some of your drainage issues you should see a quick (5-10 years?) recovery.
I see "local disturbances" here make a world of difference. In 2013 the GOM cod quota was cut by 77% so in the spring, the weather was good for extended times and the draggers went out and quickly filled their cod quota and just as quickly "switched over" to flounder. The effects were very evident in the spring flounder fishery that year. In the 15 prior years I had seen only a few cases of "net rash" (flounder that were scraped up by a dragger net and somehow escaped - either by having the net merely run over them or by slipping through the mesh); in 2013 there were over 20 cases of fish with net marks on my boat alone. Many other boats reported the same along with at least a 50% drop in flounder abundance. The results of commercial dragging are catastrophic! Some areas of Boston Harbor that had been good and getting better for 15 straight years had NO FLOUNDER in the spring of 2013!
In 2014, there was a difference; the draggers suffered from terrible weather and did not fill their cod quota right away and did not "switch over" to flounder during their spring move into the bays. We had a great year again! As much as I hate the snow and the winter weather, there is a blessing in all of these storms we are having now, I expect another stellar flounder fishing season this spring..........JC
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Old 02-06-2015, 09:53 PM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Interesting, JC, as always!
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Old 02-10-2015, 09:52 AM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobS View Post
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Interesting, JC, as always!

More snow-AAGGHHH!

Now taking Quincy Flounder bookings especially for New Jersey fishermen!
Send email for details-open dates limited.......JC
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Old 02-13-2015, 01:06 PM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

What they look like (the 2nd pic is a father/son from NJ):
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Old 02-13-2015, 02:54 PM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

Man, my summer flounder aren't that big! I talk to a few old timers who used to fish for them 35+ years ago and they weren't that thick then either(behind margate/Longport). our bays and dock areas are covered with mud/sludge.
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Old 02-14-2015, 06:22 PM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

I'm "chumming for flounder fishermen"!
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Old 02-15-2015, 08:14 AM
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Default Re: Winter Flounder

I heard they make great striper bait
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