One of the agencies that manages fish and wildlife in North Carolina did some good things about 10 days ago, but the other one, uh, not so good.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, at its monthly meeting in late February, approved a handful of changes to hunting and fishing regulations that will benefit both sportsmen and the fish and wildlife they pursue and looking for.
Major ones were creating a spring season for gray squirrels, changing size minimums for hybrid and striped bass in Lake Norman, adding a new playing field covering 2,340 acres in Wilkes counties and Caldwell and the approval of a new camp for hunters in B. Everett Jordan Game lands near Pittsboro.
Spring squirrel season will go into effect on the second Monday in May 2023 and will last for two weeks. It will be in effect only on private land in North Carolina, and the daily bag limit will be eight squirrels per hunter. While spring squirrel hunting is new to North Carolina, several other states in the Southeast have popular spring hunting seasons that begin after spring turkey season ends.
Anglers can only keep striped and hybrid bass that are at least 20 inches long as of August 1, a change from the current 16-inch minimum size. The fishing limit will remain at four fish per day, per angler.
The commission voted to open 2,340-acre Kings Creek Game Land in Wilkes and Caldwell counties on newly acquired land. The treaty will be added to the western deer season and will have a one-day introductory season for both sexes.
The commission also voted to create a designated camping area in the Jordan Game Lands to allow hunters to camp during open hunting seasons. The camp will be restricted from September 1 to the last day of February and from March 31 to May 14. The camp will be restricted to hunters.
And now, as radio host Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”
Shamefully, the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission continues to view recreational fishermen as second-class citizens when it changes or adopts regulations. The latest chapter in this saga was at the end of February at the commission’s monthly meeting, when it voted to give recreational anglers a six-week flounder season, from August 16 to September 16. 30, with a daily catch limit of one fish and a minimum size of 15 inches.
Yes, that’s right, one flounder a day for six weeks.
You see, southern flounder is not doing well on the South Atlantic coast, especially in North Carolina waters, where a robust commercial fishing industry takes 70 percent of the annual harvest.
The commission had previously voted to change the 70/30 commercial/recreational flounder allocation in favor of recreational anglers, but members changed their minds at their last meeting, delaying any change for another two years. As it stands, the 70/30 allocation will remain in place in 2023 and 2024, then move to 60/40 in 2025 and 50/50 in 2026.
So for another four years, recreational anglers will basically be told to look elsewhere for flounder, while commercial anglers will carry on as usual. Oh, the commission voted to add a spring flounder season for recreational anglers, so they can target healthy summer and gulf flounder populations (commercials already had access to those fish), except a 1/1 season March to April 15 is a joke. ; flounder are not in accessible areas in any number during that six-week period.
Oh, and if one fish and six weeks isn’t bad enough, the commission warned that if, in its opinion, recreational anglers exceed their allotments at any time, they will have to “give back” those fish in future years, leading to even shorter seasons.
Two veteran North Carolina fishermen who gave seminars at the recent Central Carolina Fish and Boat Show in Greensboro had some interesting thoughts on the Commission’s decision.
“You don’t want to hear my real opinion,” said Noah Lynk of Harkers Island, which runs the Noah’s Ark Guide Service. “It is what it is. I guess we just have to deal with it. But in the last couple of years, maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been catching so many more flounder, and good ones, that it’s almost gone bad. You’re trying to catch red croaker and you’re just catching flounder. I think their (catch) numbers are all wrong.”
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, an inshore crackerjack fisherman, especially in his Hobie fishing kayak, questioned whether the commission had really considered other options.
“It’s not good, and I haven’t heard anyone give me any reason to believe it’s fair,” he said. “If they are going to give us six weeks, they should change the dates so that the season starts around June 1. And why not allow a few 13-15 inch fish and maybe one 17+ inch fish? Biologists have shown us that the largest flounder are mostly female, so why are we pressuring people to catch these larger fish, the breeders? The commercials want to catch bigger fish, because they have more weight to sell.
“Last year, there were over 700 commercial fishermen selling flounder, and yet we are taking billions of dollars in recreational money from the state.”
Dan Kibler he has been covering the outdoors since 1985 as the outdoor editor of the Winston-Salem Journal and then managing editor of the Carolina Sportsman until his retirement last fall.