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For the fifth time this decade, Virginia flounder anglers have new regulations.

On Tuesday, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission adopted catch limits of 19-inch minimum lengths and five-fish bag limits. There will be a closed season from July 21-30.

The new rules went into effect Saturday, meaning that the flounder season is now open.

The old regulations allowed anglers to keep five fish a day that each measured at least 18.5 inches. There were closed seasons from Jan. 1 through March 31 and July 23-28.

The commission was given five options in an attempt to meet a required 21.6 percent catch reduction ordered by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Of the five, the option chosen was the overwhelming favorite, according to Rob O'Reilly, state deputy chief of fisheries management.

"They didn't like any of them," O'Reilly said. "But they said that this was the best of the worst."

Virginia anglers were allowed to catch 407,525 flatfish last year. This year's take is supposed to be no more than 311,562 fish. Virginia anglers annually have averaged a take of about 8 percent more than the allotment. But last year's catch was pretty close to the allowed take.

Changes from 2006 to 2007 were more drastic because anglers caught significantly more fish than they were allotted. In 2001 and 2002, anglers could keep flounder measuring 15.5 or more inches.

The half-inch change from last year already has been approved by ASMFC because it should provide a reduction of approximately 21 percent. The nine-day closed season is expected to provide the remainder of the required reduction.

Reductions in catches also were ordered up and down the Atlantic coast for the commercial fishery. However, commercial fishermen have their season closed when their allotted catch is met.

More flatfish

Virginians aren't the only ones affected by federal fisheries-ordered flounder reductions. Nine states fall under ASMFC control. Massachusetts was the only state not ordered to reduce its catch. Anglers there caught less than their 2007 allotment.

North Carolina also had to change its regulations.

Anglers working North Carolina waters, where smaller and fewer flounder are caught than in Virginia, now have a 15.5-inch size limit - up from the 14.5-inch limit of last year.

Anglers can keep eight fish a day that meet the size limit.

The new rules - which went into effect Saturday - pertain to waters from the Virginia state line, south to Browns Inlet. The rules also apply to all eastern sounds.

North Carolina also has several areas where 14-inch fish are allowed to be taken. Areas of Pamlico and Albemarle sounds, and the southern portion of Browns Inlet, allow for smaller fish.

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