A recreational spring season for Gulf and summer flounder will not take place this year to prevent the potential harvest of southern flounder, state Division of Marine Fisheries officials said Monday.
In North Carolina, the recreational flounder fishery is managed as left-eyed flounder, which consists of the three main flounder species: southern, summer and Gulf.
Adaptive management under Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan allows for a March 1 to April 15 recreational season for ocellated flounder in the Atlantic Ocean if the additional harvest does not limit the rebuilding of the southern flounder stock. Gulf and summer flounder have ocellated spots, which are eye-like dark marks enclosed by a band of another, lighter color, while southern flounder do not.
Preliminary data from the recreational flounder season Sept. 1-30, 2022, indicates that removals of southern flounder exceeded the total allowable catch by 25,000 pounds. The 2023 recreational quota and season must be adjusted based on the previous year’s data. The current recreational total allowable catch is based on the most recent stock assessment that indicated southern flounder is overfished with overfishing occurring.
The purpose of the spring ocellated flounder season is to allow for additional recreational access to summer and Gulf flounder but there is the potential for southern flounder to be harvested during this time. Because of the overage of the total allowable catch and to meet sustainable harvest requirements established under Amendment 3, the division will not open an ocellated flounder season in the Atlantic Ocean, officials said.
For more information on how to identify the three main flounder species in North Carolina, see the Flounder Identification Guide.
The dates for the 2023 fall recreational flounder season will be announced once all data are finalized.
For more information on the management measures, see the Southern Flounder Information Page under Hot Topics.