Fourteen county bait and tackle shops will participate in a state push to reduce summer flounder mortality by giving away large J-hooks supplied by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The larger hooks are part of a DEP campaign to educate the fishing public on how to safely release summer flounder that do not meet minimum size requirements, according to a statement.

“We are asking all anglers to help protect summer flounder for future generations,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. “New Jersey is fully committed to doing the right thing by using science and public education to conserve a species that is critical to the fishing culture and economy of New Jersey.”

The "If You Can't Keep It, Save It!" campaign focuses on the proper methods and gear to use to reduce unintentional mortalities that can occur when flounder that do not meet minimum length requirements are returned to the water, he said.

The DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife, in coordination with the American Sportfishing Association and Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle Co., are distributing the larger-sized J-hooks that help anglers land bigger fish and reduce the potential for discards. DEP officials said the hooks can make a difference by reducing the number of smaller fish that are caught as well as risk of serious injury to these fish.

“Whether you are a seasoned angler or it's your first time fishing, it's important for everyone who reels in a fish to be educated on the proper ways to handle them in order to best preserve current and future stocks,” said David Glass, DEP deputy commissioner.

State officials said 20,000 hooks have been distributed statewide. Shops with free hooks in Cape May County include:

  • 24/7 Bait and Tackle 551 Roosevelt Boulevard Marmora 08223
  • Avalon Hodge Podge Bait & Tackle 2389 Ocean Drive Avalon 08202
  • Boulevard Bait & Tackle 535 Sea Isle Blvd Oceanview 08210
  • Bree-Zee-Lee Marina 970 Ocean Drive Cape May 08204
  • Fin-Atics Marine Supply 1325 West Avenue Ocean City 08226
  • Hand's Too 970 Rt 109 Cape May 08204
  • Harbor View Marina 954 Ocean Drive Cape May 08204
  • Jersey Bait & Tackle 124 W.Chestnut Avenue North Wildwood 08260
  • Jim's Bait & Tackle 1208 Route 109 North Cape May 08204
  • No Bones B & T at Mocean Mar. 560 West Rio Grande Avenue Wildwood 08260
  • Off the Hook Bait & Tackle (Hinch Marina) 989 Ocean Drive Cape May 08204
  • Sea Isle Bait & Tackle Corner of 42nd & Park Road Sea Isle City 08243
  • South Jersey Marina-Mark Allen, 1231 Route 109 Cape May 08204
  • Sterling Harbor Marina 1020 West Rio Grande Avenue Wildwood 08260

The summer flounder season in New Jersey began May 25 and runs through Sept. 5. The minimum size is 18 inches for summer flounder for most coastal waters, including the ocean, estuaries and creeks. Anglers in these areas may keep three legally sized fish per day. The size limit for Delaware Bay is 17 inches, with a three-fish per day limit. At Island Beach State Park the size limit for shore fishing is 16 inches, with a daily two-fish limit.

Middle Township Gazette reporter. Call me anytime you have news for the paper or the website. 609-365-6176