Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will seek input from black drum fishermen as it considers the first coast-wide regulations for the species.
Black drum are caught along the coast but are an especially popular fishery in the Delaware Bay, where the species spawns each spring.
New Jersey has its own regulations but the commission, a compact of East Coast states that regulates migratory fish, is considering developing a coastal management plan.
The commission is hosting meetings this week in North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey to seek input from anglers and commercial fishermen. New Jersey’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Atlantic County Library Branch on East Jimmie Leeds Road, following the regular meeting of the The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council, which starts at 4 p.m.
New Jersey and Delaware have an agreement to retain the same regulations for black drum, which include a 16-inch minimum size limit and a daily bag limit of three fish per angler. New Jersey anglers landed 10,000 pounds of black drum in 2010.
Commercial fishermen also have a size limit of 16 inches and the two states have an annual commercial quota of 65,000 pounds.
New Jersey has considered increasing the size limit to 32 inches for both recreational and commercial fishermen while lowering the bag limit to two fish per day.
The regulatory changes have been proposed but have not made it through the legislative process, said Russ Allen of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
“We have a joint plan for Delaware and New Jersey that we put together. They will change their regulations if we do,” Allen said.
There has not been a stock assessment done yet and little is known about the resource. Allen said most have spawned at least once when they reach 32 inches and the idea is to make sure this happens before fish are harvested.
Black drum take about five years to mature and reproduce but they can live for 60 years or more and grow to well over 100 pounds.
The commission is the first exploratory stage to decide if the fish deserves coast-wide protection. Black drum are mostly landed in the Mid-Atlantic region but range as further to the north and south.
“This is the initial process. After this they could draft a fishery management plan that goes out in the winter and then probably next spring or summer there would be a whole new round of public hearings,” Allen said.
Black drum are caught in the Delaware Bay during the spring. Some years they congregate on the Delaware side off Slaughter Beach but other years they seem to be in New Jersey.
Rick Shepanski, an angler from Lower Township, said they were mostly caught on the Delaware side this year and license fees charged in Delaware has discouraged some New Jersey anglers from going over to catch them. Shepanski, and avid fisherman, said he actually caught a black drum in Florida one year.
Danielle Chesky, a fishery management plan coordinator with the commission, said the fish move north in the spring and south in the fall. The commission has looked at harvest levels and is concerned about an increase in the landings of juveniles, called “puppy drum,” in the southern states during the winter.
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