State Announces 2021 Recreational Flounder Season

Flounder season will open on August 16th and close on September 30th during 2021.  The State has limited the catch of Flounder in recent years in an effort to increase the Flounder population and protect them from over-fishing. Flounder season will open on August 16th and close on September 30th during 2021. The State has limited the catch of Flounder in recent years in an effort to increase the Flounder population and protect them from over-fishing.

State Announces 2021 Recreational Flounder Season Featured

By / Local News / Tuesday, 09 March 2021 03:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - Last year the season for flounder fishing was limited following orders from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. This year the 2021 recreational flounder season will open Aug. 16 and close Sept. 30 for internal and ocean waters of the state, as prescribed by Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. Amendment 3 is currently underway and could impact the open season.
The size limit for the upcoming season will be 15 inches total length with a creel limit of four fish per day per person during the recreational season.
According to Patricia Smith with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, "The N.C Division of Marine Fisheries is currently developing Amendment 3 and is scheduled to seek public comment on the draft amendment this spring. The draft amendment includes options for commercial and recreational quotas, accountability measures for both sectors, commercial trip limits, recreational bag limits, regulations on the recreational use of commercial gear to harvest flounder, separating southern flounder from other flounder species in recreational management, evaluating inlet corridors as a management tool, and evaluating recreational and commercial slot limits. Final adoption of draft Amendment 3 is scheduled for
August 2021. If additional management measures are approved, the division will implement them as directed by the Marine Fisheries Commission, which may impact the 2021 season."
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.
In February 2020 the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission selected sector harvest allocations of 70% commercial and 30% recreational for the upcoming Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan.
The commission voted on the allocations at its quarterly business meeting last week.
At its November 2020 meeting, the commission asked the Division of Marine Fisheries to consider several different options for sector harvest allocations in the draft plan amendment, including commercial/recreational splits
of 70/30, 65/35, 60/30 with a 10% allotment for gigging, 60/40, and 50/50.
In previous southern flounder plans, management measures were based on historical sector landings. For Amendment 3, that would equate to approximately 73% commercial and 27% recreational.
The draft amendment includes options for commercial and recreational quotas, commercial trip limits, recreational bag limits, regulations on the recreational use of commercial gear to harvest flounder, separating southern flounder from other flounder species in recreational management, evaluating inlet corridors as a management tool, and evaluating recreational and commercial slot limits.
During the meeting, Chairman Rob Bizzell announced he will schedule a special meeting by web conference on March 18, 2021 to vote on sending the draft Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3 for public and advisory committee
review later this spring. Specifics on the meeting time and web links will be announced later.
Final adoption of the draft amendment is scheduled for later this year.
In other business, the commission:
• Moved forward with rulemaking to protect all finfish species from highly efficient fishing gear on artificial reefs in state ocean waters.
• Gave final approval to amend and readopt a package of rules in 15A NCAC 03 and 18A under a mandatory periodic review schedule. The rules pertain to shellfish growing waters, processing of crustacea meat, special secondary nursery areas, and oyster sanctuaries. The rules also address user conflicts associated with shellfish leases while supporting a productive shellfish aquaculture industry.
•   Approved the goal and objectives for Amendment 2 to the Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan.
• Voted not to move forward with proposed rulemaking to require the use of circle hooks and barbless treble hooks when fishing with natural bait statewide. Rather, the commission voted to consider circle hook requirements on a species-by-species basis through the fishery management plan process.
Decided by consensus not to proceed with developing additional rules to limit shellfish
lease acreage in identified high-use areas, to give time for the other shellfish lease rules to take effect.

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