Recreational flounder, red snapper seasons short – real short

Published 7:50 am Monday, July 10, 2023

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Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries does something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

DMF announced last week that North Carolina’s recreational season on flounder will last all of two weeks this fall – compared to four weeks in 2022, six weeks in 2021 and year-round before that.

Fishermen will be allowed to keep flounder from 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 15 through 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 29. Fishermen can keep one flounder per day, with a 15-inch size minimum.

The harvest of flounder with a Recreational Commercial Gear License will be prohibited.

DMF said the shorter season was a reflection on how well fishermen did last year during the month-long season, when they exceeded the allowable harvest of 170,655 pounds by more than 55,000 pounds. That latter total was subtracted from the allowable harvest for 2023, dropping it to 114,315 pounds.

The allowable harvest quota is set annually to keep the number of fish taken within the boundaries of a management plan for southern flounder approved by the DMF. The severe restrictions will continue for several more years. Statistics indicate recreational fishermen catch 30% of the total catch; commercial fishermen account for the other 70%. DMF said it would release dates for the commercial season soon.

DMF estimates the number of flounder that are caught and released later die – discard mortality – in the harvest quota, and said it has contributed significantly to the recent overharvest.

Plan for hunting

July is a dead month for most hunters across North Carolina; dove fields were likely planted in late May and June, and most fall food plots won’t be planted until late September or October.

But July should be a planning month, according to Jeff Burleson, a North Carolina native who is a wildlife biologist with Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

“It’s not time to start planting a lot of things, but it’s a good time to plan what you’re going to plant, and where and when you’re going to plant it,” Burleson said. “You can buy the seed you’re going to need; you can get your soil tested and figure out how much fertilizer and what kinds of fertilizer you’re going to need.”

Burleson said the only food-plot planting available during the peak of summer heat would be brassicas:  kale, turnips, rape and radishes. They’re often planted with fall plantings, but they can be planted in the summer to take advantage of the extended daylight and optimal growing conditions.

Deer won’t start hitting them until after the first frost, then, they’ll eat the foliage and the tubers, which are high in carbohydrates.

Burleson said that having trail cameras out and operating is a great idea in July; you’ll often see plenty of bucks and be able to grade them and decide which ones to target.

“You should 100% start looking at trail cameras,” he said. “June, July and August, bucks are in bachelor groups, and you can get a good idea of what you want to kill. Especially in July, you’ll see the best antler growth. Usually, 75% to 80% of antler growth is in July.”

Red snapper carcasses

If flounder fishermen think they have it bad, fishermen who target red snapper in waters off North Carolina have only two days to harvest fish this year: July 14-15.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries wants to collect red snapper carcasses during that brief period for research. It is setting up 15 freezer locations where fishermen can deposit red snapper carcasses for donation:

Bridgetender Marina in Wilmington; Carolina Beach Municipal Docks; Capt. Stacy Fishing Center, Atlantic Beach; Carolina Princess headboat dock, Morehead CIty; Oden’s Dock, Hatteras; Cape Pointe Marina, Harkers Island; Frisco Rod & Gun, Frisco; Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head; Eastside Bait & Tackle, Washington; Dudley’s Marina, Swansboro; Pelagic Hunter Fishing Center, Sneads Ferry; Sea View Crab Company, Wilmington; Tex’s Tackle, Wilmington; NCDMF Headquarters, Morehead City; Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point (available only to those with military base access.

Anglers who donate a red snapper carcass will receive a certificate from the N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament. When cleaning, anglers should leave the head and tail intact and, if possible, leave the guts/reproductive organs. Instructions for packaging the carcasses are posted on each freezer.

DMF biologists will measure the fish, determine gender if possible, and remove the ear bones to determine age. The information will wind up with the National Marine Fisheries Service for assessments.