Striped Bass Emergency Action

From BoatUS

Overfishing and four straight sub-par spawning seasons prompt governing body to increase restrictions on prized angling species along the Atlantic coast through October 2023.

Two Caucasian young adult males each holding a large stripped bass while on a boat in open waters

It’s the bad news that’s been spreading through fish towns all along the Eastern Seaboard. At its May 2, 2023, meeting, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) took the rare step of introducing emergency measures to protect striped bass (aka rockfish) spawning stocks.

“This action responds to the unprecedented magnitude of 2022 recreational harvest, which is nearly double that of 2021,” reads the ASMFC announcement. As a result, commissioners recognized the chances of rebuilding the stock by its target year of 2029 were diminishing. The last year of a “well above average” striped bass spawn was 2015, and the fish hatched that year are now approximately 31 to 32 inches long. To protect this strong year-class of mature breeding fish, the emergency measure institutes a 31-inch maximum size – and that’s coastwide, regardless of state. The emergency measures are in effect through October 28, 2023.

These emergency measures require all jurisdictions to implement new rules as soon as possible and no later than July 2, 2023. Previous maximum size for coastal striped bass slot limits varied by state, with most enforcing a 28- to 35-inch slot for harvestable fish.

“Controlling coastwide fishing mortality is the key to rebuilding striped bass abundance to levels the public expects and deserves,” says David Sikorski, executive director of CCA Maryland and Maryland’s legislative appointee to the striped bass management board. “It’s also important to recognize, however, that striper recruitment issues related to successive poor spawns, coupled with an expanding blue catfish population in Chesapeake Bay, will continue to complicate the longer-term trajectory of this iconic fishery.”

Young adult Caucasian male wearing an orange jacket and gray knit hat holding a large striped bass on a boat on the open waters

The emergency measure was taken with the future stock in mind.

ASMFC is an interstate agency consisting of the coastal Atlantic states, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The agency was formed by compact in 1942 to manage species that are migratory and thus don’t respect state boundaries. Striped bass is one of the most contentious fish to manage because it’s both an important commercially harvested fish and the No. 1 recreational sportfish chased along the Mid- and North-Atlantic coast.

Further actions could be taken to address the striped bass situation at the ASMFC Summer Meeting beginning July 31.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report May 2023

Many fish in the middle Bay are returning to their summer patterns now that water temperatures are in the mid 60’s. After a tough trophy season, many anglers were excited for the return of the summer rockfish season which opened on May 16th. The striped bass regulation maps can be found at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website. This is accompanied by a new slot limit of 19 to 31 inches. We haven’t received many reports on the rockfish, but it seems the open water jigging bite is decent, though you may need to cover some ground. Travis Long, who runs Schooled Up Fishing Charters, has found good success jigging for rockfish this week. He put his anglers on lots of fish in the 20 to 30 inch range and found fish from 15 to 30 feet of water. One half ounce and three-quarter ounce G-Eye Jigs paired with five-inch chartreuse Z-Man diesel minnows were the hot bait.

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