Discard mortality and overharvesting in last year’s flounder catch are being cited as reasons for the limited recreational season for flounder this year in North Carolina.
The 2023 recreational flounder season will open at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 15 and close at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 29, North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries officials said Wednesday.
Provisions for both the recreational hook-and-line and gig fisheries include a creel limit of one fish per person, per day, and a 15-inch total length minimum size, measured from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail.
Harvesting flounder with a recreational commercial gear license will be prohibited. Officials said they will announce the commercial southern flounder seasons in a later news release.
The season and possession limits are set every year to keep the fishery within the recreational quota approved by the Marine Fisheries Commission in the N.C. Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3.
The plan specifies any overage to the recreational total allowable catch requires a pound-for-pound payback subtracted from the following year’s allowable harvest.
In 2022, the recreational total allowable catch of 170,655 pounds was exceeded by 56,340 pounds. This means the total allowable catch for the recreational season for 2023 will be 114,315 pounds.
Discard mortality is accounted for in the estimates of total allowable catch. Dead discards both during and outside of the southern flounder recreational season in 2022 contributed significantly to the total removals from this fishery and the overage in the total allowable catch.
Because of this, the division officials said they are discouraging anglers from targeting flounder for catch-and-release after they have caught their one-fish limit or when the season is closed.
The division also discourages during the open season from keeping a fish until a larger one is caught because this increases post-release mortality leading to additional dead discards.
For more information, visit the Southern Flounder Amendment 3 information page on the see the Division of Marine Fisheries website.