MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) — The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has announced that the 2023 recreational flounder season will run through Sept. 29 at 11:59 p.m.

It opened on Sept. 15 at 12:01 a.m. and is shorter than last year due to overharvesting in 2022. The 2023 fall season was shortened due to overages from the 2022 recreational season.

“Last year, the recreational sector over harvested about 50,000 pounds of their quota. So the division had to readjust the season,” said Steve Poland, section chief of the Fisheries Management at the NC Division of Marine Fisheries.

The season opens with the following provisions for both the recreational hook-and-line and gig fisheries:

  • A one-fish per person per day creel limit.
  • A 15-inch total length minimum size limit (from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail).

“We’ve definitely heard from a lot of anglers, their displeasure from going from four fish to one fish,” Poland said. “And in general, the recreational community would like to see more fish allocated to them.”

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

“A lot of the frustration is every year it’s a new rule based on a statistic from last year,” said George Papastrat, owner of Tideline Marine in Jacksonville. But there is no consistent study that is done over a long period of time to show how you can actually conserve the fish in the fisheries.”

The season and possession limits are set annually to keep the fishery within the recreational quota approved by the Marine Fisheries Commission in the N.C. Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3. The plan also specifies any overage to the recreational Total Allowable Catch (TAC) requires a pound-for-pound payback subtracted from the following year’s allowable harvest. In 2022, the recreational TAC of 170,655 pounds was exceeded by 56,340 pounds.

For 2023, this means the TAC for the recreational season will be 114,315 pounds.

“In the month of August, I probably caught between five and 10 flounder every time I went fishing, not targeting them,” Papastrat said. “But there was definitely a large amount of fish, especially in the area that I was fishing.”

Discard mortality is accounted for in the estimates of TAC. During 2022, dead discards both during and outside of the southern flounder recreational season contributed significantly to the total removals from this fishery and the overage in the TAC. For this reason, the Division discourages anglers from targeting flounder for catch-and-release after they have caught their one-fish limit or when the season is closed.

During the open season, the Division also discourages anglers from high grading (retaining a fish until a larger one is caught) as this increases post-release mortality leading to additional dead discards.

The commercial southern flounder seasons will be announced at a later date. For more information, see the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Southern Flounder Amendment 3 Information Page.