Anyone who has fished the beautiful waters of the Alabama Gulf Coast in the past decade knows that one of the premier inshore species, southern flounder, has been scarce.
A well-documented decline in the southern flounder fishery started about 2008 and, unfortunately, the population hasn’t rebounded. Marine scientists don’t have any definitive reasons for the decline.
The Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) changed regulations this year to decrease the recreational bag limit to five flounder per day per angler, implement a commercial trip limit to 40 per person or vessel and increase the size limit to 14 inches total length. Harvest was closed to both recreational and commercial anglers for the whole month of November to protect the flounder that were migrating through the bays, heading for their winter spawning grounds.
However, that is not the only action MRD has taken to mitigate the downturn in the flounder population. MRD headed into uncharted territory for Alabama this past year with an effort to add to the wild population with southern flounder fingerlings raised at the Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores. A critical step in any spawning program is collection of broodstock – the adult fish.
Max Westendorf, Hatchery Manager at Claude Peteet, said MRD has been collecting broodstock from two main sources – the ACFA (Alabama Coastal Fishing Association) tournaments and the Saltwater Finaddicts Fishing Tournament.
“They have live flounder categories in their tournaments, and we show up with our trailer to collect these fish,” Westendorf said. “We also have a couple of other anglers who bring us fish one or two at a time.”
MRD collected about 40 fish from the Saltwater Finaddicts tournament and gets 20 to 30 fish from each ACFA tournament for broodstock.
“We bring the flounder back to the Claude Peteet