The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted at its meeting last week to change daily creel limits and size limits for sheepshead and proposed six options to consider to reduce the commercial and recreational harvest of southern flounder.

The commission chose the following management measures for sheepshead:

• 10-inch fork length minimum size limit (all commercial and recreational fisheries)

• 10-fish bag limit (recreational)

• 10-fish per person per day limit or per trip limit if multi-day trip (commercial spears and gigs)

• 300-pound trip limit (all other commercial gears, except pound nets)

Until 2012, sheepshead was managed under the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan, and was included in a 20-fish snapper-grouper recreational bag limit aggregate. When sheepshead was removed from the South Atlantic plan, management of the fishery was left up to the state.

The new sheepshead regulations will be implemented by a proclamation later this week, and be effective June 1.

The Commission is considering options that will reduce the harvest of southern flounder by 25 to 60 percent, to address the species’ classification as “depleted.”

The options are:

·     ·  Change commercial pound-net, gill-net and gigging regulations;

      •  Institute a 15-inch size minimum for commercial fishermen, close the large-mesh gill net fishery north of Cape Hatteras between Sept. 16-Jan. 16 and south of Cape Hatteras from Sept. 16-Jan. 1, put a 35-fish trip limit on commercial gigging trips;

•     • Retain the 15-inch size limit and 6-fish bag limit for recreational fishermen, increase the size limit to 15 inches for commercial fishermen, with a 6-inch stretched mesh for large-mesh gill nets and escape panels in pound net, and close all southern flounder fisheries from Nov. 16-Dec. 31; 

       ·  Maintain status quo for commercial fishermen, decrease the recreational size limit from 15 to 1 inches and observe a 60-day comment period with stakeholder input;

       ·  Retain a 15-inch size limit and 6-fish bag limit for recreational, increase the size limit to 15 inches for commercial with a 5¾-inch stretched mesh for large mesh gill nets and escape panels in pound nets, and close all commercial and recreational fisheries from Dec. 1-31;

      ·  Require a minimum mesh size limit of 5¾-inch stretch mesh for large mesh gill nets and escape panels in pound nets; close the fishery from Dec. 1-31 for all gear types, both commercial and recreational.

The flounder options will be up for public comment from June 10 through July 10 and will include a public meeting that will be scheduled at a later date.