New rules cast for saltwater fishing
FRANK MCKANE JR., Correspondent Connecticut Post Online
Recreational anglers will likely see significant changes in the saltwater fishing regulations next season, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The department announced its proposed fishing regulations at two public hearings last week. Some of the more important changes forthcoming are reported below.
Over the past decade, anglers have noticed major declines in the winter flounder population. Many blame the flounder loss on the increased numbers of predatory cormorants and striped bass. But fisheries managers can only control the human predators at this time. To do so, the DEP proposes to keep the fishery closed between May 31 and March 31. This season proposal only gives anglers two months of flounder fishing. The department will offset the short season by increasing the daily creel limit to 10 fish from from eight.
Changes are in store for summer flounder as well. The current fluke size minimum is 17 inches. This minimum was enacted through temporary emergency regulations imposed by the DEP commissioner. The limit will become official with the 2006 regulation package. Also, the fluke season will be closed Jan. 1-April 29.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has been developing a management plan for the porgy population along the coast. Several fishing regulation changes have occurred in recent years as the plan progressed. Now the DEP hopes to stabilize its management program by increasing the daily creel limit to 25 fish from 20. However, to appease the party and charter boat industry, passengers on licensed party boats may take 60 porgy Sept. 1-Oct. 31. Another part of the porgy rebuilding effort includes a closed season Nov. 1-June 30.
Offshore anglers sometimes target goosefish, also known as the monkfish. The proposed minimum length of whole monkfish will decrease to 17 inches from 21. Those anglers only keeping monkfish tails will face an 11-inch minimum measured from the third dorsal spine from the snout to the tip of the tail.
Several saltwater anglers obtain "personal gill net licenses" in order to catch fresh bait. Under the new proposals, the license holder must attend all personal gill nets. Netters will no longer be able to leave nets unattended or allow others to use their nets.
Unlicensed netters will be allowed to use casting umbrella nets to catch bait as long as the net does not exceed 36 inches square.
Anglers will see some changes in bait regulations. Most important, the taking of rainbow smelt in Long Island Sound and tidal rivers will be prohibited. Two new species, the bay anchovy and the Asian shore crab, have been added to the approved bait list.
Under current law, striped bass less than 28 inches must be released immediately. The DEP is proposing to change this rule slightly to allow conservation-minded anglers to hold sub-legal striped bass for a short period of time as they apply DEP-approved research tags to the fish.
Anglers can submit written comments regarding the above regulation proposals until Dec. 26. Submit your comments by writing to: DEP Marine Fisheries Division, PO Box 719, Old Lyme CT 06371 or e-mailing to: [email protected]