Sept. 12, 2002


.MOREHEAD CITY - It's been a year for the record books for anglers in North Carolina, with four record-breaking saltwater fish being brought to the docks.

On May 1, Robert Spencer of Smithfield, Virginia, caught a 39-pound blackfin tuna aboard the charter boat "Rigged Up," out of Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, with Capt. Charles Haywood at the helm. The previous record blackfin tuna had been 34 pounds, 2.5 ounces.

The following week, on May 8, Kevin Valla of Havelock, N.C., hooked a 2- pound, 11-ounce pinfish aboard the Capt. Stacy IV out of Atlantic Beach. The prior pinfish heavyweight tipped the scales at 2 pounds, 4 ounces.

Then, Jesse Dunlow of Windsor, N.C., hauled in a 105-pound cobia out of Hatteras Village on May 25, breaking the former cobia record of 103 pounds.

And finally, on June 11, Timothy Burns of Milford, New Jersey, caught a 61-pound albacore aboard the charter boat  "Haphazard" out of Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. The past albacore record had been set at 57 pounds.

Only one saltwater record was broken in 2001, when John Vickers of Wilmington, N.C., landed an 8-pound Florida Pompano on October 27, breaking the former 7 pound, 13 ounce record.  The last time four state saltwater records were broken in one year was 1979.

For more information about state record fish, visit the Division of Marine Fisheries Web site at http://www.ncdmf.net/recreational/record.htm or call Partha Howell at 1-800-682-2632 or 252-726-7021.


MOREHEAD CITY - Beginning Oct. 1, the size limit for recreationally-caught flounder in North Carolina's internal coastal waters will increase from 13 inches to 14 inches, with no bag limit.

"This action is necessary because North Carolina must limit the recreational harvest of summer flounder to 246,000 fish in 2002, to comply with the intrastate fishery management plan for this species" said Division of Marine Fisheries Director Pres Pate.

"To achieve this goal, we instituted a lengthy ocean closure and maintained an increased size limit of 15.5 inches for ocean-caught flounder. But, even with these strict measures in place, recent recreational landing reports indicate we will exceed the recreational 2002 harvest target."

Pate explained the number of summer flounder landed in Tar Heel inlets and sounds is increasing. "Based on this year's projection of landings, it has become clear we can no longer manage this fishery with measures that apply only to the ocean," said Pate.

"There has also been unprecedented growth in our recreational fisheries. We now have 2 million recreational anglers fishing Tar Heel coastal and ocean waters - a 46 percent increase since 1997," said Pate. "This dramatic rise in fishing effort also complicates the management process."

Pate also added, "Increasing the size limit now should help the state meet it's 2002 harvest target and prevent a total, year-long recreational ocean closure for flounder in 2003."

Flounder management in North Carolina is complex because the state is the southernmost range for summer flounder and the northernmost range for southern flounder. N.C. is the only East Coast state that has to develop management strategies for two separate and distinct flounder populations that co-exist in the same waters. The management dilemma is further complicated because both species of flounder look alike - true identification can only be made by counting the gill rakers of the fish.

Fisheries management, once viewed solely as a state function, now operates through regional, national and even international compacts. The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, in conjunction with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, share oversight of summer flounder because it is a migratory stock that moves along the East Coast from North Carolina to Maine and up into Canadian waters.

In the mid to late 1990's increasing minimum size limits were required to try to help rebuild overfished summer flounder stocks. Because N.C. has two major flounder species, managing summer flounder as an ocean fishery and southern flounder as an inside fishery was the most equitable solution.

Since 1999, overfished summer flounder stocks have been managed based on conservation equivalencies. This means individual states are assigned a quota or target, and then it is up to each individual state to determine the best method to achieve their harvest goal. Daily limits, size limits, seasons and closures are all methods used to manage a fishery, and landings are closely scrutinized.

As the fisheries management planning process evolves, and as more information about fisheries becomes available, managers are required to refine their management techniques to reflect increased effort, increased harvest and changes to the distribution of the resource. Under these conditions, and given the current landings projections, North Carolina can no longer manage its summer flounder fishery with measures that apply only to the ocean.

The increased internal size limit will also prove beneficial to overfished southern flounder stocks. A state fishery management plan for southern flounder is currently being developed to set long-term recovery strategies for that stock. Several conservation groups have been calling for increased internal size limits to conserve southern flounder stocks while the plan is being finalized.

The new size limit applies to all recreationally-harvested flounder taken from North Carolina's inside waters by hook-and-line, gigs and gear used by Recreational Commercial Gear License holders.

For more detailed information on summer flounder management, visit the NCDMF Web site at: http://www.ncdmf.net/recreational/flounfacts.html or contact Carter Watterson at 252-726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632 or Doug Mumford at 252-946-6481 or 800-338-7804.


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