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NJ Fishermen Battle Federal Regulators To Keep Flounders

SOMERS POINT, N.J. (CBS) – Even for experienced fishermen, catching a keeper flounder has become more of a fluke than an expectation at the Jersey Shore.

Bad pun but it's better than the joke I heard about the one-armed fisherman Friday afternoon aboard the Duke O'Fluke in Somers Point.

By the way he caught a fish this (raise just one hand) big.

Captain Brook Koeneke settled on the word "pathetic" because he can't curse on TV when asked about federal regulators trying to move the keeper size up from 18 to 19 inches.

"There's no good reason on earth why they should keep raising the size limit," says Koeneke.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is on Koeneke's side on this issue.

The DEP has rejected the 19-inch recommendation by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Summer Flounder Management Board and kept the 18-inch standard.

Instead, the DEP reduced the length of the flounder season by 24 days and decreased the daily keeper limit from five to three.

"The higher they go the less fish you take home. Years ago it would be nothing to take home five or six keepers. Today you're lucky if you get one every few trips," says John Spitz, a frequent customer on the Duke.

New Jersey's decision to snub federal guidelines comes after an analysis by Montclair State University found raising the size limit to 19 inches could cost the state's flounder industry $800 million and about 3,500 jobs.

The move could backfire if the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior rule by July 1 to punish the state for non-compliance by banning summer flounder this year.

In that scenario, they're all "throw-backs" and no one will be joking around.

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