MOREHEAD CITY — Officials with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries announced Wednesday the commercial and recreational season for southern flounder will close Sept. 4.
The state Marine Fisheries Commission made the decision at its meeting last week, adopting the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 as proposed by the division.
Changes to the allowable gears in the commercial ocean flounder fishery will also be implemented Sept. 4.
Because all species of flounder are managed under the same recreational regulations, the recreational season closure will apply to all flounder fishing. The recreational season will not reopen this year, as the peak recreational flounder fishing season has already passed. As a result, the estimated level of recreational harvest so far in 2019 is greater than that allowed under Amendment 2, thus reducing the expected catch reductions for this sector.
The commercial sector landings do not peak until September and October, so the current commercial harvest combined with the projected harvest during an upcoming open season is projected to equate to a slightly greater reduction than in the recreational fishery.
The commercial flounder season will reopen on Sept. 15 in waters north of Pamlico Sound and on Oct. 1 in Pamlico Sound and all other waters. Other regulations specific to the commercial fishery will be issued by proclamation at a later date. Fishermen should check the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Proclamations Page for updates.
Analysis of Division of Marine Fisheries data indicates that from 2000 to 2018, as much as 50% or more of ocean-caught recreational flounder were southern flounder, as opposed to other flounder species, this includes beach and pier fishing. Since statistical data on the for-hire charter fleet is limited and has high margins of error, the division needs more time to consider whether to separate the for-hire seasons from other recreational fishing seasons.
Additionally, to encourage conservation, the N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament (Citation Program) will not issue citations for flounder during the recreational season closure.