Monday, December 1, 2014

New Striped Bass Regulation Plan Flawed

               Likely you have read the news about possible striped bass conservation measures adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council last fall in Mystic Connecticut at their annual meeting. The short news is a 25 percent decrease in recreational and 20.5 percent decrease in commercial take.  All sounds good, right? Well I am sorry to report that’s not necessarily the case. Striped bass are still in trouble and the ASMFC actions aren't going to help that much. The reason for me saying that is a lengthy subject, too long for this forum. So, I suggest you go to:  for a lengthy, spot on analysis of the subject. If you are honestly concerned for the future of striped bass fishing in Maine, read the entire blog. Take the time to absorb the contents to understand the complexity of the system.

                The accompanying photo is typical of what happens south of Maine. Those fish are all mature, breeding age female striped bass.  This type of action is likely to continue in the near future despite the devious actions instituted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council. If you believe the system is rigged in favor of killing versus conservation, you are correct. What can you do to turn the tide? I am miffed on the subject after spending years of concentrated effort to do so. So called conservation organizations continue to be on the debating team rather than getting on the field of play to accomplish a win in favor of conservation. I dislike saying that, but after years of participating with such groups and devoting much time studying, lobbying and attending meetings that likely had the fix already in; I have become jaded.
                Last fall, nine concerned Maine guiding captains rented a 12 passenger van, went to the ASMFC meeting in Mystic, Connecticut to display their support for strong conservation measures that had been hammered out over the past three years. A complicated measure came up for a vote and passed. We were quite happy with the outcome as it seemed like a small victory after many years of battling for striped bass mortality reduction coast wide. If you read the above suggested blog it is clear that we all bought into the snake oil sales pitch. You are not likely to see any further regulation changes for three to five years as the ASMFC process for change takes that long if they want it to. And you can believe they don’t want it to.     The one fish at 28 inches standard stands in place for the entire east coast recreational fishery. The so called conservation equivalency formulas in place are likely to allow states to petition for things like two fish, 23 inches or larger per day to accomplish the equivalency.                
Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But when New Jersey elects that recreational equivalency, states like New York and Rhode Island are likely to do the same. And so it will go up and down the coast. So, we haven’t changed anything except a decrease from two to one fish per day. Your guess is as good as mine as to what Maine will select for a keep limit.
                Maine’s popular slot limit may be allowed but with a tighter length limit such as 22 to 24 inches or 24  to 26 inches with a one fish limit. Maine’s bonus 40 inch plus trophy fish may or may not be allowed within the new conservation equivalency plan.

I for one hope the 40 inch trophy fish is dropped. I never liked it and here’s why. I’m not opposed to the 40 inch fish being taken. It’s the process of getting it that bothers me. A few large fish are taken with artificial lures and flies, but most are taken using bait, especially live lining mackerel. Now that’s all fine and good if you only catch that one fish over 40 inches and call it a day. In reality, the quest for the larger fish means catching several between 30 and 40 inches while using live bait. That means playing, landing and releasing them safely. That’s my issue. To many breeding size fish will die in the process of finding that one 40 inch plus fish. We need more, not fewer breeders in the system to help the recovery.