New regulations for black sea bass, summer flounder

January 11, 2014

Fishing remains good when boats can find enough people who want to fish in this weather and when the weather is good enough to take people fishing. Tog remain on the inshore reefs and wrecks, and a few rockfish remain over the lumps off Bethany Beach. Tog fishing will be the main attraction for saltwater anglers while perch, crappie and bass will draw freshwater folks to the ponds and spillways.

Actually, I will be fishing freshwater all winter because it is available close to my home, and I have had good luck in the past. I don’t have to worry about the wind or the seas, and I can go for an hour or two when the outside temperature has risen well above freezing. I have a few locations where the sun can keep me warm and the nearby structure will keep me out of the wind. The head of the Broadkill River in Milton even has park benches where I can fish in comfort.

New regulations

Delaware will have new regulations for black sea bass and summer flounder during the 2014 season.

There was a movement at the Atlantic States Fisheries Management Commission to manage summer flounder on a regional basis rather than state by state. New York and New Jersey wanted to include Delaware in their region, but that idea was defeated. Instead, Delaware will be included with Virginia and Maryland should the commission decide to go with regional management.

On a positive note, if the council does decide to manage by region, Delaware would adopt a 16-inch minimum size limit to conform with Maryland and Virginia. I doubt if this would help me, because as soon as they drop the minimum size, I start catching flounder just below the new number.

From my reports as well as personal experience, 2013 was not a great year for flounder fishing in the Inland Bays or tidal rivers. The size limit was not the problem, as there was a definite lack of fish of any size in those locations. Anglers who fished reef sites in the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean had reasonable success. The hard bottom between B and A buoys also produced good numbers of flounder. I have no idea why the fish were not available inshore, but since the Inland Bays and tidal rivers support younger fish, it is possible there was poor flounder reproduction in preceding years.

I am sorry to say I somehow missed hearing about a meeting tonight at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at the Department of Fish and Wildlife building in Dover. The subject will be flounder, and the ASMFC will be hosting this public hearing. If you can’t make the hearing you can read and submit your comments on the Draft Addendum to the ASFC website at

Black sea bass are also scheduled for new regulations in 2014. While nothing has been set as yet, the proposal will reduce the bag limit to 15 fish per day and retain the minimum size at 12.5 inches. The season will reopen in May then close sometime in early fall before reopening in late fall, then close in December. Last year the season ran until Dec. 31; this year it may close two weeks earlier.

Bluefin tuna have been a hot topic for the past month or more as large numbers of big fish were found near the Hudson Canyon. The National Marine Fisheries Service increased the daily bag limit on giant bluefins from one to five per day because there was quota remaining for the 2013 season. This action was welcomed by those with permits to sell bluefins, as the price at that time of year was very high. For those who do not watch “Wicked Tuna,” a single bluefin can fetch $20,000 on the Japanese market.

On the other hand, those of us who believe the breeding stock of bluefins is on the brink of collapse were not pleased to see NMFS give away even more of this precious resource. I am sure it will come as no surprise to find out that money once again overruled conservation.

Exactly what the 2014 bluefin tuna regulations will be has yet to be decided. The overall regulations are set by the International Commission for Atlantic Tunas and then NMFS develops our regulations. The United States delegation to ICAT has been pushing for better conservation practices while the other countries keep trying to get more fish and make more money. Then there are countries that do not belong to ICAT and have no regulations on bluefin or anything else. The result is a constant hammering of the bluefin stock that will result in a complete collapse in the near future.

And so it goes.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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