CWitek

ASMFC votes to move forward with new striped bass amendment

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On Tuesday, the ASMFC's Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board voted, 15-1, with New York the only dissenting voice, to move forward with a new amendment to the striped bass management plan, which could change the way striped bass are managed along the entire East Coast--and not necessarily in a good way.

 

A number of Management Board members emphasized the need to move forward slowly, not only to assure that issues are thoroughly addressed, but also to make sure that the public's ability to fully participate in the process is not hampered by COVID-19; the ability to hold a packed-room hearing in the era of COVID is obviously problematic.  However, that concern did not prevent representatives from voting for the amendment to proceed.

 

All aspects of striped bass management will be on the table.  It was somewhat  disconcerting that the motion voted on was made by Maryland's Michael Luisi, who over the past four or five years has been one of the loudest opponents of striped bass conservation measures, opposing the science-based measures recommended for the Chesapeake Bay because "my charter boats" could be adversely affected, and repeatedly calling for reductions in the female spawning stock biomass target, which he deems "unrealistic."

 

Two New York reps, Capt. John McMurray and Emerson Hasbrouck, noted that rebuilding the stock should be the primary, and perhaps only, concern of the Management Board at this point, but their comments were largely ignored by the Management Board, which is planning to release a comprehensive Public Information Document, perhaps as soon as late October, with public comment to be held as soon as late fall (other reps called for the PID to be released no sooner than February, but they have no real control of the timetable, and seemed concerned toward the end of the discussions, after the vote was already taken, that staff was talking about moving ahead quickly.

 

Anglers might be surprised to note that they, or more precisely, the fish that they release, seem to be viewed as the biggest problem in the fishery.  Capt. McMurray noted that striped bass fishing mortality is 90% recreational, that recreational anglers release more than 90% of the bass that they catch, and that the Management Board should look at some other primarily recreational, primarily catch-and-release fisheries for ideas on how to manage bass.  However, that suggestion drew a quick response from two New Jersey reps, Tom Fote and Capt. Adam Nowalsky, who emphasized the importance of the catch-and-kill fishery,  Fote went so far as to suggest that catch-and-release anglers, because 9% of their released fish are deemed to die, are responsible for regulations that limit the ability of catch-and-kill fishermen to take fish home, while Nowalsky siezed on McMurray's examples of tarpon and bonefish fisheries where release mortality is by far the greatest part of fishing mortality to point out that striped bass are also sought as food fish, and should be managed as such.  New Hampshire Governor's Appointee Richie White tried to strike a balance by saying that all striped bass anglers enjoy just fishing for striped bass, and so there are not two kinds of anglers, because those who keep fish will keep fishing even after they put a bass in the box.  In doing so, he noted that such continued catch-and-release fishing will generally cause more release mortality--essentially admitting the importance of release in the fishery--and that the only way to prevent it is with a season, which most anglers don't want.

 

Other things that will be on the table are the goals and objectives of the management plan (right now, they're pretty good, and include maintaining large females in the population, and a well-stratified age and size structure), changing the reference points used to denote a healthy stock (any change would probably call for a smaller stock on a permanent basis), looking at rebuilding timelines (don't expect them to be shortened), revising management triggers that dictate when managers must act to conserve the stock (but have been ignored by the Management Board anyway, particularly with respect to rebuilding), and a host of other issues.

 

The bottom line is that, if you care for the bass, get ready for another tough slog.

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How about a coast wide rec season of June 1 - October 31    1 fish   Per day 28” to 36”  No directed rat fishery in the Hudson or Chesapeake. IMHO that would allow the spawn to go on and the breeders to be in their way before the snag and drop superstars can “ release” a bunch. 

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Might make more sense to just set a 125-day contiguous season, and allow states to begin where it starts and ends.  June-October might be the worst time in Chesapeake Bay, when water is warm and hypoxia and most fish die.  Probably wouldn’t do the Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina coastal fisheries much good, either, as they catch fish later in the year.

 

Also the question of whether catch and release would be allowed in the closed season.

 

But a late start in New York and New Jersey, that allowed fish to get up into the Hudson without being killed, strikes me as a good idea.

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Catch & release mortality rate: 9%

Gaff and "release" mortality: 100%

Catch & keep mortality: 100%

 

Stripers are a luxury food, no one needs them for sustenance yet the fishery is in decline. I'm usually for the old school way of things but I cant wait until some of these old salts go the way of the dodo. I havent caught crap from the Surf this year or last so far on LI so I know I'm not contributing much at all lol. Can't even get a decent fluke without going out all day towards the ocean...But thts a rant for a different day. 

 

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Unfortunately it continues to sound like most of these fishery managers are simply looking for a work around to cull more fish and they will probably get it in some form.  I think they are disgusting and this continues to reinforce my feelings of discontent for this entire process and those responsible.  This is also the reason why I go about 1/3 of the time I used to go when there were more fish around and have purchased very little surf gear in the past few years.  I have a strong feeling surf fishing for striped bass and bluefish will be a thing of the past in the coming future.  Horrible.

 

Florida is looking better and better for my retirement.

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Make it a total catch and release fishery for the next ten years, then reevaluate the regulations with current data to determine what is a sustainable catch and keep limit

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Maybe they can create/invent an "impossible striper" for the market place made entirely from plant-based material (like seaweed) and leave the fish alone?

 

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5 mins ago, afterhours said:

If we care about the fishery there is only one answer- gamefish status.

Two questions about that:

 

1) How does that protect the bass from recreational fishermen, which are causing 90% of the fishing mortality?

 

and

 

2)  How do you prevent the fish currently killed by the commercial sector from merely being transferred over to the recreational side for them to kill, something that quite a few folks in the recreational fishing industry would like to see?

 

It would seem to make more sense to place greater restrictions on both the commercial and recreational sectors, and lower overall fishing mortality.  After all, whether killed by a recreational or a commercial fisherman, a dead bass is still dead.  The idea is to have fewer dead fish, and more live ones.

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54 mins ago, FishermanTim said:

Maybe they can create/invent an "impossible striper" for the market place made entirely from plant-based material (like seaweed) and leave the fish alone?

 

Lol!

 

Even so, striped bass IMO are of lower food quality than most fin fish in their range, with a few exceptions. Idk how they charge so much for it.

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25 mins ago, CWitek said:

Two questions about that:

 

1) How does that protect the bass from recreational fishermen, which are causing 90% of the fishing mortality?

 

and

 

2)  How do you prevent the fish currently killed by the commercial sector from merely being transferred over to the recreational side for them to kill, something that quite a few folks in the recreational fishing industry would like to see?

 

It would seem to make more sense to place greater restrictions on both the commercial and recreational sectors, and lower overall fishing mortality.  After all, whether killed by a recreational or a commercial fisherman, a dead bass is still dead.  The idea is to have fewer dead fish, and more live ones.

You basically answered your own question greater restrictions on rec anglers and NO commercial fishery period. If i'm not mistaken it has done wonders in some of our southern neighbors. IMO Creating a world class fishery would create more $$ for the local economies than dead fish do. To me it's a no brainer.

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57 mins ago, afterhours said:

You basically answered your own question greater restrictions on rec anglers and NO commercial fishery period. If i'm not mistaken it has done wonders in some of our southern neighbors. IMO Creating a world class fishery would create more $$ for the local economies than dead fish do. To me it's a no brainer.

Still hard to justify when we're killing most of the fish.  That wasn't the case down south, where some of the commercial fisheries had much better impact.

 

And don't think that the fishing is all that good down there.  Texas recreational fishermen regularly overfish red drum and trout; they're pumping them out of hatcheries to keep anglers' landings up.  Lousiana speckled trout or in serious trouble, with major regulatory changes on the way.  The same sort of changes were already adopted in Mississippi, which is also adopting the hatchery approach.  The west coast of Florida is doing better, but even there, there are issues.

 

As far as generating dollars, talk to a Montauk charter boat captain, or someone who runs a party boat that targets bass, and ask them what they need to make money, and most of them will tell you "dead fish."  At every bass meeting, they fight against conservation measures.  Tackle shops also typically want the least restrictive rules, so that people can kill more bass, take them home, and buy more bait to go out and do it again.

 

It's easy to point fingers at the other guy, but if we want to know who does the most harm to the bass stock, we all need to stand in front of a mirror and ppint straight ahead.

 

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Of course we do, we have to impose draconian measures upon ourselves as we ARE the largest user group and cause to greatest harm. Eliminating the 100% kill sector can't hurt...  

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You know the fishing is bad when you are excited to find a few 20-24” fish after fishing all season. It’s time for a C&R only Striped Bass fishery. Take it even further, No bait fishing, crushed barbs only, single hooks, shorter season with no fishing out of season, no taking pics, keep fish in water, easier to report poaching, C&R charters only. Let’s do this! The last few years have been so depressing I wouldn’t even mind moving away from the coast and get back into fresh water fishing 

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3 mins ago, afterhours said:

Of course we do, we have to impose draconian measures upon ourselves as we ARE the largest user group and cause to greatest harm. Eliminating the 100% kill sector can't hurt...  

My issue with the "gamefish" debate is that it becomes a distraction.

 

Ending the commercial fishery isn't,. in itself, a conservation measure.  What is a conservation measure is killing fewer fish.  On the other hand, ending the commercial fishery inevitably involves a big political fight, and when we waste effort on that, we're not doing something that might really help the bass.  If we cut both fisheries by 10%, we accomplish more than we do if we eliminate the commercial fishery, while avoiding the most unpleasant political aspects, and without the risk that we lose in the court of public opinion by trying to take away someone else's fish, and put them out of business, while not suffering the same hardship ourselves.

 

Not to mention the fact that, when you're dealing with policymakers, you immediately gain credibility when you stand up and say "cut my catch" as opposed to "close their fishery, but don't shut down mine."

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