The Secretary of Commerce imposed a federal moratorium on blackfishing in New Jersey as of April 1 before the State Marine Fisheries Council passed regulations that comply with the 25.6 % reduction required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The state had provided documentation to the ASMFC showing that the regulations in place had accomplished that objective, but the Tautog Management Board didn’t accept that explanation. As a result, New Jersey was voted out of compliance with the plan. The Council then drew up stricter regulations, including a spring closure, in an emergency session that satisfied the objections. Thus, the moratorium was lifted before it ever went into effect.
Under the new regulations, there will be no recreational catch allowed in May and June, when there used to be a four fish bag limit. The summer one-tautog limit, instituted primarily for the benefit of divers, now doesn’t start until July 16 and continues through Nov. 15. The prime fall season of Nov. 16 to Dec. 31 will have a limit reduced from eight to six blackfish. A four-blackfish limit then applies from January through April. Commercial seasons were also altered in that the April 15 to June 4 period has been closed. The minimum size remains 14 inches.