Southern Flounder - 2013
Stock Status - Depleted – Based on the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) 2009 stock assessment, the southern flounder stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. A new stock assessment is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.
Average Commercial Landings and Value – 2003–2012 – 2,047,609 lbs./$4,198,540
2012 Commercial Landings and Value – 1,645,849 lbs./$4,450,847
Average Recreational Landings 2003–2012 – 396,202 lbs., 2012 – 298,043 lbs.
Average Number of Award Citations (5 lbs.) 2003–2012* – 374, 2012* – 372
Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – A FMP for southern flounder was developed by the DMF in February 2005. Supplement A to the Southern Flounder FMP was implemented in February 2011 to achieve sustainable harvest in the recreational fishery while Amendment 1 to the FMP was being developed. The Southern Flounder FMP Amendment 1 was adopted in February 2013. There were various gear regulations to minimize undersized southern flounder bycatch implemented in 2005. Beginning in 2010, sea turtle settlement regulations impacted operations of the commercial large mesh gill net fishery, for which southern flounder is often the primary target. The federal FMP for summer flounder also affects the harvest of this species.
Research and Data Needs – Age and maturity data from the commercial and recreational fisheries, effort and harvest estimates for the recreational gig fishery, migration patterns, bycatch mortality estimates from all fisheries, reproductive ecology, factors impacting release mortality in the hook and line fishery, and species composition of recreationally released flounder and continued at–sea observer coverage of the estuarine gill net fishery.
Current Regulations – Commercial: 14–inches total length (TL) minimum size limit in internal and ocean waters, closed season in internal waters from December 1–31; no trip limits in internal waters and a 100-lbs. trip limit in ocean waters unless the individual has a License to Land Flounder from the Atlantic Ocean. Recreational: 15–inches TL minimum size limit/6 fish creel limit for all joint and coastal waters.
Harvest Season – Commercial: January through November (closed season in December) with peak catches from September to November. Recreational: Year–round with peak catches from June through October.
Size and Age at Maturity – Females: 16 inches TL/2 years; Males: 10 inches TL/1 year
Historical and Current Maximum Age – 9 years/7 years
Juvenile Abundance Index 2003–2012** – 1.2, 2012** – 1.1
Habits and Habitats – Southern flounder are estuarine dependent members of the left–eyed flounder family that include summer flounder and Gulf flounder. During late fall and winter, southern flounder migrate out of estuaries and move southward, often entering other states waters. Flounder are believed to spawn in November through March, but the location of spawning is unknown. At least some southern flounder migrate to nearshore and estuarine areas in late spring and summer months. Larvae enter inlets in late-winter and early spring and settle on muddy bottoms in lower–salinity areas of estuaries.
*Includes southern, summer and Gulf flounders
**Geometric mean from Juvenile Estuarine Trawl Survey
For more information, contact Tom Wadsworth at Tom.Wadsworth@ncdenr.gov or 252-808-8193.