Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Circle Hooks in New Jersey’s Recreational Summer Flounder Fishery
S. R. Zimmerman and E. A. Bochenek
Summer flounder Paralichthys dentatus support an important commercial and recreational fishery in the Mid-Atlantic Bight and are currently under a rebuilding plan. As a result, size and bag limits have been imposed upon recreational anglers to reduce fishing mortality. An important factor that affects the success of implemented minimum size limits is the survival of undersized fish. Minimum size limits have little success if there is high mortality occurring in released undersized fish (Waters and Huntsman 1986). Therefore, information on recreational catch-and-release mortality is crucial for effective management of summer flounder (Diodati 1996).
Many studies have examined the effects of hook-and-release mortality on recreational fishes (Bugley and Shepherd 1991; Malchoff 1995, 1997; Williams 1995; Diodati 1996; Bettoli and Osborne 1998; Lucy and Holton 1998), but few have studied the effectiveness of hook types and how these particular gear relate to hook sets. Lucy and Holton (1998) found the average hook-and-release mortality of summer flounder to be 11%, with 95% of the mortality the result of being hooked in the esophagus (76%), gills (16%), and tongue area (8%). Other studies (Bugley and Shepherd 1991; Diodati 1996) have also found that hooking fish in the esophagus/gill area contributed to high release mortality. The use of gear that will reduce the number of cases in which summer flounder are hooked in the esophagus, gill, and tongue area could greatly reduce hook-and-release mortality, in turn making management practices such as the implementation of minimum size limits more effective at conserving the resource (Waters and Huntsman 1986).