Sunday, February 12, 2012

Prediction - Maine and Cape Cod Stripers Will Run Big In 2012

Maine striped bass anglers are mostly aware that the past four years have been a challenge if you were looking for schools of fish surface feeding and catching 15 plus fish per fishing trip.
Those who put in the time to learn how to catch the fish available, had some fine fishing for larger fish in the 10 to 30 pound class and an occasional 40 plus pounder .
So, what’s up for 2012? My prediction is about the same action as last year with the size of fish being bigger as the 2003 Chesapeake Bay dominant year class continues to support our striped bass fishing in Maine and are growing larger each year. How long this year class will continue to provide limited fishing action is anyone’s guess. It can’t hold up forever making its’ way up and down the east coast every year being targeted by all means of recreational and commercial fishing in several states to our south.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources continues to fight the good fight at Atlantic States Marine Fishery Council (ASFMC) meetings to reduce mortality rates on striped bass with limited success. The politics at the ASMFC are weighted towards commercial fishing, so recreational interests have a tough battle there.
At the local, state level however, Maine does have some options to improve our own striped bass fishing.
The Kennebec River has a spawning population of striped bass. How big that population is has become the topic of discussion lately. Since the removal of a couple of dams, more spawning and nursery grounds have become available to striped bass.
Back in the 1980’s, striped bass were stocked in the Kennebec River to help rebuild a home grown spawning population of fish. Special regulations were applied to the river to protect spawning fish. It worked.
Then came the prolific striped bass fishing along the entire Atlantic coast from 1990 into the early 2000’s. It was wonderful fishing. No one paid close attention to the Kennebec River stock except for the long running, established special regulations.
Between 1990 and 2011, the law has allowed killing off our own spawning stock one fish at a time after July first. All this took place prior to any dams being removed.
Now that more habit is available for striped bass to spawn and nurse in, we don’t have a viable population of spawning fish to take advantage of the new spawning opportunities above August.
So, what should be done to improve the Kennebec River’s striped bass spawning population?
MRA (Maine Recreational Anglers), a small advocacy group has asked the Maine Department of Marine Resources to do the following to jump start the Kennebec River spawning stock biomass. They say the following:
“The lack of data on the existence and size of a native, resident striped bass population in the Kennebec River remains a key constraint to moving forward with more aggressive restoration techniques, i.e. further enhancement with striped bass YOY from nearby rivers with resident populations, i.e. the Hudson. Still unexamined is whether enhancement from the Hudson was inappropriate (due to the long geographic distance between the Kennebec and the Hudson and the significant differences in eco-regions); and whether supplementation from the nearest native resident stock (the Shubenacadie in Nova Scotia) would be more biologically appropriate and suitable since the Kennebec and Shubenacadie are more similar in eco-region than the Kennebec and the Hudson.
“Whatever approach the MDMR undertakes to implement stocking, it should be done with care. Many of those whom we have discussed our proposal with voice this concern.
”At present DMR regulations allow for the taking of stripers in the river after July 1st of a fish between 20 and 26 inches total length, inclusive or a fish greater than 40 inches. The larger fish, by definition, are large spawning females. The DMR rules also allow the use of live bait for stripers in the Kennebec after July 1st, which increases the likelihood that a striped bass of any size hooked on live bait will perish due to hooking wounds and stress during landing, handling and any attempted effort to unhook the fish. We understand that it has been recently determined that striped bass may spawn as late as August. We need to learn more so that fishing activity can be regulated appropriately.
“Here are the measures we propose to restore the striped bass fishery:

• Enhancement of the Kennebec River forage base by a program to increase river herring esp. alewives by providing fish passage on Cobbosseecontee, Togus and China Lake Streams
• Moratorium on the killing striped bass in the Kennebec until an abundant self-sustaining population is reestablished or until studies show that this cannot be done
• Studies on the basics of striped bass population dynamics in the Kennebec inc. expanded studies: YOY, tagging and DNA
• Trial stocking of tagged striped bass to help reestablish the breeding population”