Summer Flounder - 2013
Stock Status – Viable – The 2012 National Marine Fisheries Service’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center stock assessment indicated the stock was not overfished and overfishing did not occur in 2011, based on 2008 biological reference points. The annual fishing mortality rate generally declined since 1995, and despite an increase in 2011, is still below the rate for producing maximum sustainable yield. Spawning stock biomass has generally increased since the early 1990s but decreased slightly in 2011. The summer flounder stock reached the biomass target in 2010, therefore the stock is considered rebuilt and viable. A benchmark stock assessment is planned for 2013.
Average Commercial Landings and Value – 2003–2012 – 3,165,074 lbs./$6,300,407
2012 Commercial Landings and Value – 1,087,427 lbs./$2,962,447 (quota–managed)
Average Recreational Landings – 2003–2012 – 101,640 lbs., 2012 – 135,189 lbs.
Average Number of Award Citations (5 lbs.) 2003–2012*– 374, 2012* – 372
Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – In North Carolina, summer flounder are currently managed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission/Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Interjurisdictional Fisheries Management Plan, adopted in 1988. Several amendments to the FMP have impacted management of summer flounder, most recently Amendment 15, part of the 2011 Omnibus Amendment. Management measures include commercial state-by-state quotas, with North Carolina allocated 26% of total quota. Other commercial measures include minimum mesh sizes for trawls and a moratorium on new entrants. Minimum fish size limits exist for both recreational and commercial sectors, and bag limits are used for the recreational fishery. The N.C. Southern Flounder FMP also affects the harvest of this species.
Research and Data Needs – Discard mortality estimates from commercial fishery, collection of otoliths from the commercial fishery and comparison with scales for aging now that age-structure has expanded in North Carolina landings, continued expansion of observer coverage in the flounder trawl and scallop dredge fisheries, and species composition of recreationally released flounder.
2012 Regulations – Commercial: 14-inches total length (TL) minimum size limit; harvest seasons and minimum mesh size for the flounder trawl fishery; bycatch trip limit of 100 lbs. during closed trawl season. A License to Land Flounder from the Atlantic Ocean is required to land more than 100 lbs. per trip. Recreational: 15-inches TL minimum size limit/6 fish creel limit for all joint and coastal waters.
Harvest Season – Commercial: January through December. In 2012 the flounder trawl season was open beginning in January and ending when it was estimated that 80 percent of the annual quota was harvested, the fishery then reopened for November through December; bycatch trip limit of 100 lbs. during closed season. Recreational: Year-round with peak catches from June through August.
Size and Age at Maturity – Females: 11 inches TL/1 year; Males: 10 inches TL/1 year
Historical and Current Maximum Age – 15 years/14 years
Juvenile Abundance Index 2003– 2012^ – 7.8, 2012^ – 9.3
Habits and Habitats – Summer flounder are estuarine dependent members of the left-eyed flounder family that also include southern flounder and Gulf flounder. They are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to the east coast of Florida. In U.S. waters, summer flounder is most common in the Mid-Atlantic region from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Cape Fear, North Carolina. Summer flounder is believed to be separate stocks north and south of Cape Hatteras based on tagging and meristics data. Migratory patterns and spawning areas differ for the two stocks but both stocks likely spawn in November through March. North of Hatteras, summer flounder are found along the outer edge of the continental shelf in the winter and early spring. In late spring and early summer, they move inshore into shallow coastal waters and estuaries, then migrate back offshore in the fall. South of Hatteras, migration patterns are less certain.
*Includes southern, summer, and gulf flounders
^ Arithmetic mean from Pamlico Sound Survey (June only)
For more information, contact Tom Wadsworth at Tom.Wadsworth@ncdenr.gov or 252-808-8193.