Published: Thursday, March 01, 2012,  8:16 PM     By Al Ristori The Star-Ledger

Though there seemed to be strong support for keeping the 18-inch minimum for fluke and getting a longer season as a result, there was big surprise after public comment at this afternoon’s N.J. Marine Fisheries Council meeting in Toms River when a 17 1/2-inch minimum prevailed on a 5 to 4 Council vote. Adopting that half-inch shorter keeper in Option 5 resulted in not only a shorter fall season (closing after Sept. 28), but a drop in bag limit from eight to five — and the loss of 23 days of fluking as compared with Option 2 — which had been favored to prevail going into the meeting. A council member told me that opinions expressed at the meeting seemed to be about 60-40 in favor of the 17 1/2-inch option.

There was no surprise in the case of sea bass, as Option B was approved — providing a longer split season. of May 19 to Oct. 14 plus Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 at the same 12 1/2-inch minimum and 25-fish bag limit as last year.