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Thread: flounder gigging

  1. #1
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    flounder gigging

    Extensive flounder-gigging may prompt legislative action
    By Patricia Smith/Freedom ENC


    ATLANTIC BEACH -- Recreational fishermen use gigs to harvest close to half a million pounds of flounder from North Carolina coastal waters each year, much of which may not get tallied in traditional catch statistics.

    Some members of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission said they are hoping this information will prompt the General Assembly to reconsider a state law that bars the commission from requiring gig users to hold a Recreational Commercial Gear License (RCGL).

    "We're missing a lot of fish," Jimmy Johnson, commission chairman, said after hearing a presentation on a N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) survey of gig fishermen. Johnson represents commercial fishing dealers and processors on the board.

    Polling gig fishermen would be much easier and cost much less if they were included in RCGL surveys, Johnson said.

    "I would at the very least like to see it go to (the Joint Legislative Commission on) Seafood and Aquaculture and let them hear what we heard," said commission Vice Chairman Bryan Gillikin, an at-large member of the panel.

    "I thought it was a mistake to take it out of the license to begin with," said commission member Mac Currin, who represents the sportfishing industry on the board.

    The commission has not voted on the issue, opting to wait for recommendations from a Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan (FMP) that is being developed.

    "I think it would carry more weight coming through the fishery management plan process," Johnson said.

    In the summer of 1999, North Carolina began requiring fishermen who use certain commercial fishing gear, such as trawl nets, gill nets and crab pots, to purchase a $35 per year license. A provision of the license compels the RCGL-holder to participate in DMF surveys, which the agency began last year.

    In January 1999, the commission had adopted rules specifying gears to fall under the license. In a split vote, with recreational interests opposed, gigs were included. Later that year, however, the General Assembly passed a bill exempting gigs from the license requirement, overruling the commission decision.

    Currin said he believes opposition at that time stemmed from the belief that gigs would be more appropriately licensed under an anticipated coastal recreational fishing license (CRFL) that would also cover hook-and-line fishermen.

    "If we had all of that I might feel differently about it," Currin said.

    Until the CRFL materializes, the state should go ahead and put gigs under the RCGL so that those catches can be counted, he said.

    According to survey estimates, North Carolina recreational gig fishermen caught 223,321 fish or 441,005 pounds of southern flounder in 2002. That makes the recreational gig fishery larger than both the recreational hook-and-line southern flounder fishery, which is estimated to have caught 116,403 fish or 238,884 pounds in 2002 and the recreational flounder gill net fishery, which harvested about 82,209 pounds.

    "Approximately 360,000 pounds of southern flounder landings from the recreational gig fishery go unreported each year," said Carter Waterson, a DMF biologist who headed the study.
    Flounder Gigging Article
    so much gear, so little time...

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    It sure is interesting

    That the MFC would ask for help from the legislature on this issue. Just recently they chastised Rep. Stiller for his proposed bill claiming that he was "circumventing" the "process". Politics should not be involved in fisheries they claim.

    The fact of the matter is this. The MFC is a body created by the NC Legislature and its members serve at the pleasure of the Governor. Separate politics and fisheries? I think not.

    Now on to the business end of this bull malarkey. The MFC has tons of data on lots of things. For example, they know how many RCGL licenses are sold, they know which counties they are sold in, and they now have some idea of what they are catching where, when, and how. This body has been presented with irrefutable evidence time and time again with the beating the fishery in the southern region is taking. Why can't they take issues into their own hands and do something about it???? Isn't that what they were charged with when they accepted their position??

    Instead they hem and haw and complain when a legislator tries to do their job for them. Now they claim they need help from the politicos to do their job. Amazing.

    I suggest a fisheries regime change would be far more effective.

    BW

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    Bobby's shots (at least some) seemed close enough to center target for a win at most turkey shoots!

    Unless I'm completely out of touch here (altogether possible), the authority exists to at least treat the symptoms of "unknown" gig harvesting tallies without the necessity of additional legislation:

    • The DMF Director has the authority to partially help resolve the issue but only on a temporary basis. (The 14" minimum size rule imposed on the recreational fishery for inshore flounder demonstrates this ability through proclamation; a temporary rule.)

    • The MFC has the authority to partially help resolve the issue on a permanent basis. (A temporary 14" minimum size rule imposed on the recreational fishery for inshore flounder by the DMF demonstrates the fact that the MFC has not permanently implemented that rule.)

    Partial solutions for the inshore flounder harvesting issue was previously addressed in at least one related poll conducted by the late GoFishNC Organization (the people live on); a creel limit. (It was the same poll that addressed the 14" minimum size rule which was temporarily implemented during October 2002 and just recently renewed.) In both cases, that poll showed unanimous support for the 14" minimum size rule and a daily creel limit on inshore flounder harvested recreationally.

    It seems that most everything governing fish harvesting limits among user groups is derived from "historical usage" data. The only historical usage data I've seen for gig harvesting is provided in the report on the gig harvesting survey conducted by the DMF:


    Table 8. The average fish per trip harvested by both commercial and recreational giggers by month.


    Month Average fish per trip
    ______ Commercial Recreational
    January ---- 4
    February 41 13
    March 1 4
    April 26 17
    May 21 11
    June 24 7
    July 43 7
    August 21 8
    September 14 10
    October 35 9
    November 15 10
    December 20 9

    Total 29 10

    **END OF QUOTED INFORMATION (Geez, looks like the reader's gonna have to line up those columns!)**

    Note: "Total" appears to be the average number of fish harvested per trip (assumed one trip daily) rounded upward.

    Based upon legislation already signed into law combined with data from the flounder gig harvesting survey, it appears the MFC has both the justification and the authority to implement a permanent 10 fish recreational creel limit rule for inshore flounder. At least data from the gig harvesting survey represents a value that is better than "unknown" which is what helped achieve the CURRENT STATUS of the inshore flounder fishery which IS 30+ per cent OVER-FISHED! Since the DMF Director has the authority to take interim measures on a temporary basis, the creel limit for inshore flounder set by the MFC can be temporarily reduced (all the way to zero if necessary) until the fishery is fully recovered from a status of OVER-FISHED.

    If the preceding actions fail to help remedy the issue of over-fishing then the issue of poaching seems to emerge. Unfortunately, poaching is an issue involving law enforcement and attempts to improve (increase) DMF law enforcement have proven to be real stumbling blocks that prevent even good quality legislation from reaching the senate floor!

    The immediately preceding statement may be arguably false but there's one thing for certain,

    Something has barred all forms of legislation containing provisions for a Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) from reaching the senate floor for almost a decade now!

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    Hmm....

    Jimmy Johnson is a good guy and he's been to many Southern Flounder FMP meetings.

    He also knows we recommended a creel limit for all recs regardless of gear nearly 2 years ago, but that recommendation still sits while we wait for data. We haven't met in almost 9 months.

    If he wants to hear from that committee...call us! Write us, read this board more often.

    Hey Jimmy, the vote was unanimous to set a creel. We even asked Mr. Pate if he could implement it while we waited for other data.

    He said..."no".

    Now you have the data, and we hear "wait".

    Is it "wait", is it "no", is it "maybe" or....just who in this state can make a decision based on fact?

    If you're waiting on us...you're two years behind. We acted with foresight now grounded in fact.

    Wow, even I liked that statement!

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    creel limits.. Ray has the red herring by the tail

    Most recreational gigging ; that part that accounts for the majority of tonnage..

    is really a quasi-commercial activity

    Why tally this poundage under the recreational heading?

    It's not recreational.. it's commercials without commercial licenses selling fish to others and taking away from legit flounder wholesellers...

    They need to buy gig specific commercial licenses and have their catch tallied like a commercial activity.

    If this wasn't so... then the giggers would have a reasonable take limit... like 20 fish per day... as recreationals.

    These fish are not going home to MaMa.

    Do the right thing and license commercial giggers as commercials.

    and don't nobody hold their breath
    Last edited by 8600; 10-10-2003 at 07:46 AM.

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    Any facts to back up those opinions

    John?

    Since I don't have a crystal ball to discern what every gigger does with their flounder, then I can't see much reason to lump them all together as poachers and law breakers.

    What I can say is that we have a need for a limit. I said "way back when" that 15 fish was too high a limit, but that is what the FMP eventually settled on because it was a midrange compromise between limits in other states. A 10 fish limit or even 8 daily bag is a gracious plenty for all rec interests.

    The problem right now seems to be getting any limit passed. As Ray said, there hasn't been a meeting in over a year. This brings into question the entire philosophy of the FMP's and advisory boards not just for southern flounder but every species coming down the pipe.

    Decisions can't be made on suppositions, and sometimes the best available data isn't perhaps very good, but we must start somewhere. If the process is being stonewalled, as it appears to me, then where do we go from here?

    See, I'm not interested in finger pointing or whining. What I want to see are reasonable decisions that actually take some solid steps to help our fisheries. My belief is not that the plan is flawed, but that implementation of the original intent is a long way from being valid.

    Could I be doing more? Yes! Quite frankly in the time I've taken to type this message, I could have easily sent one to Press Pate, Jess Hawkins, and a host of other people questioning the same things and wanting to know why no meeting has been forthcoming. Each of you could do the same thing and if hundreds of call and e-mails flooded into DMF or MFC then something would be done pretty quickly.

    Why haven't we done that? Do we just want to complain? Are we too busy? Are we, and I know that both Ray and I are, in some sort of mental stupor which has bascially given up?

    I was already burned out with these public meetings 20 years ago because nothing ever got done. They listened politely and then did what they had already decided was going to be done before the public got any input. I gave up.

    Then George Beckwith asked me to apply for the Red Drum Advisory commitee. Against my better judgement I did, and they apparently didn't think I knew enough about Red Drum to serve.

    Ray Brown then took it upon himself to ask that I be considered for an open spot on the Southern Flounder Committee which was close to concluding it's work anyway. I agreed against my better judgement again. So far in that 18 months which I've been a member there has been one meeting in June of 2002. To say that I am frustrated is an understatement, but am I doing anything of substance about it? Nope, I'm just complaining and burned out because I knew already that was the way it would be.

    It will never change until the people rise up and demand that it change. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

  7. #7
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    Well... it's certainly possible.. although...when your on the docks in the North River and see a non-commercial coming in with a 50 gallon drum loaded with gigged flounder it's hard to imagine that it's a recreational effort going on though.

    Or on the banks too, or anywhere else. And , your right.. I'm sure many, many giggers are simply ... whatever.

    Quasi recreationals have been providing their neighbors, non-neighbors, communities here and there, resturants, Hwy. 70 stands... and on and on... with flounder under the taxman radar forever.

    I'm not complaining about it. It's part of the fabric of our communities. Like the netting of stripers near Halifax. It just happens. And nobody is going to do anything about it.

    What would be reasonable is to have giggers obtain a free permit and have them report their catch annually. Although; I doubt they would do anything but under-report their landings. Then put the numbers down as quasi-rec/commercial and go from there.

    The idea that we have to have hard data to make decisions with appears to me to be a legal remnant of the 90's. The **** pioneered the concept around here that all fisheries decisions must be backed by hard data. And used it as a tool to retard true reform in fisheries management.

    Because they know that hard data is difficult to obtain, difficult to defend when non-scientist lawyers play with it. And, especially, when scientific research is politically directed to muddy the science.

    It's ok and I'm ok with it too. From what I hear commercial landings are in record levels (and finfish are the little stepchild of crabs and shrimp). With more landings and less effort. I also see fewer recreationals fishing now (some may see more... I have no data). Having their take increased by quasi-commercials seems to be the next logical step in keeping those rec harvest numbers up to where alarm bells don't sound. Sound to who knows? Don't know or want to know about that end of the donkey's ass.

    I've given up hope that red drum bags will increase. I think that the level of current harvest and our ability to supply 90 plus percent of the commercially supplied red drum to the market trumps all now.

    Trying to fight against million dollar industries who play the game using money and politics, employ untold people and many jobs; with what? I don't believe the advisory committees empower people to make reform possible.

    All you can do is speak your mind as you see things and enjoy the days and nights as they come.
    Last edited by 8600; 10-10-2003 at 11:36 AM.

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    Does anyone actually have any idea as to when the next southern flounder advisory committee might be? I was told a few months ago that we would be meeting in September but I think that we into October by my calendar. I was also told that we needed a new stock assessment, gig data, RLCG data, etc. We all agreed that limits must be placed on giggers over 2 years ago but we are told to be patient. mean while another recommendation that we all agreed upon which requires new pound nets to be at least 1000 yds apart is moving right along thru the system. Why can't the bag limits on giggers move thru the system as well? I'll say it one time and will aplogize for my vulgar words but someone in the DMF is dragging their ass and I do not know why. I promise you though that if we start to bitch a little then we will get our Advisory meeting in a hurry. Someone needs to lite a fire under some of these people in order to get them off of their butts.

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    • Illegitimate usage of marine resources

    Quoted from above:

    "It's not recreational.. it's commercials without commercial licenses selling fish to others and taking away from legit flounder wholesellers..."

    Regardless of who participates or the methods used to harvest seafood or the legitimacy of both, it is still illegal to buy or sell seafood without a license authorizing the holder to "deal in seafood". Such activities involving wildlife resources (seafood taken from natural environments are wildlife resources) earns one the undesirable title of POACHER! (Poachers are purposeful law-breakers and known to be dangerous which explains why Wildlife and Marine Patrol Officers carry a weapon and it may also explain boorishly mean human behavior sometimes encountered on the public waterways!


    • Southern Flounder FMP development

    When this process is revived (sooner rather than later) then a recreational creel limit rule of 10 fish for inshore flounder seems fully supported by law and reliable data! Set a 10 fish creel limit for inshore flounder and I'd be surprised to hear complaints from anglers who fish along the Onslow County coastline considering that a legal size flounder caught by hook and line is rapidly becoming rare in this area.

    As a side note, I'm sure the average daily count of flounder in the gig harvesting survey was inflated for commercially harvested flounder and understated for flounder harvested recreationally! Why? From a psychological perspective it makes sense to expect commercial fishermen are more inclined to "prove the resource is their family livelihood" while recreational fishermen are more inclined to "prove insignificant impact on the livelihood of the fishery!" :-)

    Perhaps what has happened and is happening with the River Herring fishery helps explain why Southern Flounder FMP development remains idle. The opening paragraph of a NCDMF News Release I received yesterday reads:

    **QUOTE**
    MOREHEAD CITY - The public is invited to attend a meeting Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fish Hatchery, 1104 West Queen Street, in Edenton, to comment on a petition received by the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) to prohibit the harvest of river herring.
    **END QUOTE**

    The stock status of the River Herring fishery since 1996:

    1997 - "Depressed" in the northern part of the state and "Unknown" in the southern part of the state.
    1998 - "Depressed" in the northern part of the state and "Unknown" in the southern part of the state.
    1999 - "Overfished" in the northern part of the state and "Concern" in the southern part of the state. ("Concern" must have been a boo-boo!)
    2000 - "Overfished" in the northern part of the state and "Unknown" in the southern part of the state. (FMP implemented this year.)
    2001 - "Overfished" in the northern part of the state and "Unknown" in the southern part of the state.
    2002 - "Overfished" in the northern part of the state and "Unknown" in the southern part of the state.

    Now, here it is mid-October of 2003 before a public hearing is held to close a fishery that has been seriously troubled for at least 6 years. (Note the motive behind this hearing is not driven by an initiative on the part of the DMF nor MFC (those who are supposed to "preserve and protect" the resource against overfishing). The stock status of the Southern Flounder fishery since 1996:

    1997 - "Stressed Declining"
    1998 - "Viable" (Perhaps another boo-boo!)
    1999 - "Concern"
    2000 - "Concern"
    2001 - "Concern"
    2002 - "Overfished"

    The Southern Flounder fishery seems to be following in the procedural footsteps of the River Herring fishery.

    Perhaps Ray Brown will chime in and expound on the negative effects "procedural and/or political stonewalling" on critical fishery management decisions and actions has on most any fishery. As always Ray (others as well), reliable and objective information feedback is appreciated. Oh, I almost forgot.

    Kudos to the NCDMF for using their web-site to provide meaningful information for public review. (Should I have failed to copy the above info correctly then here's the URL for the info at the NCDMF web-site for convenience and personal edification: http://www.ncdmf.net/stocks/index2k2.html )
    Last edited by Fishnsmygame; 10-11-2003 at 12:59 PM.

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    As Owen alluded to...

    I've about burned out my candle on these things in one sense.

    The system we have to implement fishery management is greatly flawed.

    By design any FMP must take two years. Read the law!

    On January 1, 2004 we'll be past three years on the southern flounder FMP journey with no meeting in over a year with the fish itself being listed as "over fished" or "stressed" depending on when you check.

    The system requires too many steps. From the FMP process, it goes to public hearing, then past each standing committee then to the Commission then back to each standing commission and then back to the Commission. The Commission can be overruled at any time by the Joint Committee in Raleigh which has new members including Jerry Schiil a lobbyist for the commercial fishing industry. While I respect Jerry for his abilities and even like him as a person I don't think a lobbyist should be on any rule making or overseeing committee. To me that is the epitome of "home team rules" but the state of NC seems to not care.

    I think Owen and Downeast will agree with me that we can finish this FMP very quickly if they'll let us meet and let us see the final information on the gig and RCGL data.

    We did choose 15 as a creel recommendation based on the average of other states with southern flounder. Obviously we don't have detailed data that would allow us to look at participants and available fish to decipher a number correctly.

    I agree with Owen that 8 or 10 would be more reflective of being fair to both fisherman and resource, but there is one thing not remembered here and in all fairness to Owen he wasn't a member of the committee at that time.

    We had to beg and plead for the majority of the commercial members to even allow us to implement a creel limit as a recommendation. For a few moments it appeared they had the votes to reject any.

    I can't remember exactly what broke the deadlock but in the end the 15 number became a number they would live with.

    In spite of that "debate" the commercial members of our committee have not been unreasonable at all, but ALL OF US have been blind sided by the state on more than one occassion in this process.

    We based all our decisions on the continued "inside/outside" management of flounder with all inside being considered "southern" and all outsided being considered "summer". We were assured over and over that NMFS would continue to allow us this ability.

    When summer flounder got into trouble on the rec side then suddenly the state moves the size limit inside on rec anglers to 14 inches and leaves the commercials at 13. All the way through this process we all agreed to work with the same size limit then "poof" all our understandings are tossed by the DMF.

    They still haven't cleared that issue up for me for those pound nets sitting just inside inlets are catching the same type of fish we recs are and why they can keep at 13 and I at 14 makes no sense. While the DMF came back and dropped recs to 13 on the western side as a way of appeasement it once again showed we manage people rather than resource which in my humble opinion is a definite posture of failure.

    We need a creel first and foremost. In addition the gig should have always been in a RCGL since catch and release is not an option with that gear which puts it into the same category as gillnets and trawls where C&R is not always possible by default.

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    That pretty well covers it Ray...

    except I'm still dying to see the data they used to draw the line in Pamlico Sound, and to ask the question which you posed.

    When that line was drawn there was an automatic admission that fish east of that line have a substantial number of summer flounder, or

    They just pulled the line out of thin air--which is the truth I suspect.

    In either case it is hard to justify comms being allowed to fish on 13 inch fish while recs are saddled with 14 inches on the very same fish over hundreds of square miles in Pamlico Sound.

    I'm beginning to think some of the DMF folks must live in one of our communities here in Pamlico County. It is named STONEWALL.

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    Exclamation FOR YOUR EFFORT`S

    MANY THANKS
    Working is for those that can`t fish

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    I have gigged all my life, now 30. My Dad started gigging in 1965 and passed this tradition on to me. Herb Anderson at Odens has known my father for years and would attest to our honor. Not one time have we ever gigged an undersized fish or sold any of our fish for commercial or any other purposes. If the law is already in effect for this illegal activity, enforce it and prosecute. There is simply no need for enacting further legislation that will do nothing for the fishery. I have a hard time believing that gigging is harmful to the fishery when the amount of undersized flounder are thrown back after swallowing a hook. I have no problem reporting my catch to any agency that wants the info. The individuals selling rec. gigged flounder should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law because they are stealing from everyone of us.

    After reading the article a second time I am in agreement with a license even though it would not be used to help the fishery. They state what they believe to be the totals of the 3 groups mentioned. Does anyone know what the total commercial harvest was? Probaly 10x the amount caught or gigged recreationally I am assuming.
    My Dad gave me an addiction when I was young. He always bought me fishing equipment, no questions asked. Thanks Dad and NO you cannot have the Penn 5500 back!

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    Originally posted by Franklin
    Does anyone know what the total commercial harvest was? Probaly 10x the amount caught or gigged recreationally I am assuming.
    I've alway found it frustrating that the NCDMF stats do not break out commercial summer & southern flounder like they do for the recs.

    While the commercial catch may be 10X (easily if you include the winter flounder trawl fishery which ar fish not target by recs) rec gigging, rec taking is supposted to be for personal consumption not feeding the masses - for under-the-table consideration or not.
    All right, brain. You don't like me and I don't like you, but let's just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.

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    Owen

    Owen, Seems to me that the flounder committee and crab committee agree on establishing a line down the middle of pamlico sound to regulate carb trawling and flounder bycatch by this fishery. Ray's memory is probably better on this than mine but I believe that ease of law enforcement was the primary reason for this proposal. Another interesting tidbit is the fact that for the past few summers I have been catching a high percentage of gulf flounder in my gill nets while netting on the east side of Core Sound but have caught very few summer flounder. As a matter of fact there have been some days when the gulf flounder dominated my catch. I wonder if some of these gulf flounder get mistaken by the rec samplers and are shown as summer flounder. I do not wish to open that pandora's box so I will go back to my fishing.

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