The 2021 Summer flounder (fluke) season dates will be decided at the March 4 webinar meeting of the NJ Marine Fisheries Council. Owing to COVID-19, this is a virtual situation, and public comment will be heard, although only from those who submitted opinions by the February 26 deadline.

Webinar info is available at www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/mcnclmtg.org. Then, wade through the many steps to receive an audio pin number. Then, it will be “listen only”.

There are two options. The first is May 22-September 19 (121 days), the second May 28 (the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend) through September 28 (124 days).

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The first option is generally preferred by anglers, including a sizable roster chunk of the charter fraternity, from Great Bay south to Cape May, as the fluke, in particular the larger fish, begin moving into the bays and ICW beginning in mid-April continuing into early June. In addition, the bait and tackle shops and boat rental liveries do a brisk business that first weekend, giving a much needed financial shot-in-the-arm after the slow winter layoff. In addition, the first nor’easter that usually roars in the second week in September pretty much shuts down the southern fluke fishery.

However, there is a segment of the southern flounder scene that is in favor of the later opening and closing, these being party and charter boats.

“It gives my clients a chance at bigger fluke at the end of the season,” says Capt. Paul Thompson, owner of the Porgy IV sailing from Cape May. More importantly, he emphasizes, the later closing date leaves only a nine-day gap before the October 8 reopening of the sea bass season, instead of the 18 day stretch that basically leaves him at the dock. South to north along the Jersey shore among the party and charter boats, and also private boat owners, this is a huge factor in approving the second option.

One bait and tackle shop owner who remains in favor of the first option points to the chaotic “breakout” boat traffic the Memorial Day weekend that usually has the fluke burying in the sand from fright while developing severe cases of lockjaw.

The bag and length limits will remain the same as 2020: three fish at an 18-inch minimum for Atlantic Ocean waters and also its bays and tidal rivers; three fish at 17- inches for Delaware Bay; two fish at 16-inches when surf fishing in Island Beach State Park.

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