The new rules increase the size of legal blackfish to 15 inches and set the following seasons and bag limits: four fish from Jan. 1 to Feb 28; four fish from April 1 to April 30; one fish from July 27 to Aug. 31; one fish from Oct. 18 to Nov. 15; and four fish from Nov. 16 to Dec. 31. These regulations are also effective immediately.
Addendum VI from the ASMFC established a lower mortality rate for blackfish and called for a 56 percent coastwide reduction in blackfish harvest.
Individual states were directed to develop and implement regulations that will enable them to meet the new mortality rate. The new rules are New Jersesy’s response to Amenment VI.
These new regulations have little regard for the law-abiding back bay, land based, recreational and six-pack charter fisherman. The fact that March is closed is meaningless. Tog fishing usually doesn’t get going until late March to Early April. Until then it’s usually picky biting skinny fish. March was an acceptable closure because most party boats are not fishing for Tog at that time of year. We can only blame ourselves for not attending meetings and having our voices heard by the committee. If these new regulations were truly about protecting a species that is highly vulnerable to over-fishing then they would close down April when the fish are beginning to spawn loaded with milt and roe. April is my favorite time for catching these fish simply because you can get fish over ten pounds on light tackle in as little as 17 feet of water. Fights like that are what makes these large whitechins a true game fish.
The summer and fall closures make little sense as well other than the fact that they prevent backwater anglers and land based anglers a chance of keeping fish during the fall backwater banks and bridge bite. Are these the ones doing damage to the stock? The mortality rates I would bet are much lower catching tog off a sodbank in 12 feet of water versus 100 feet in January. What makes the entire situation a true laughing-stock is the fact that these new regulations will hardly get enforced anyway. The New York boats with different regulations will still be taking fish from New Jersey waters. The bucket brigade will still be keeping short fish, the live Blackfish Asian market trade will still be booming, and those who play by the rules will be looking to pressure other species of fish while trying to figure out when they can go keep a blackfish again. The increase in size limit is the only thing that makes any sense out of all of this, but it will only hurt the honest fisherman..