Commission decides on new striped bass regulations

November 8, 2019

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission met in New Hampshire the last week of October and decided on regulations for striped bass to reduce mortality. This action was taken because the stock of striped bass is currently overfished and is experiencing overfishing. In addition, the stock of breeding-size females is approaching a critical level.

The ASMFC is required by law to take action when these indicators show a need to reduce mortality. The plan they decided on will reduce recreational and commercial mortality by 18 percent. You may remember I had suggested a 20 percent reduction in recreational mortality since recreational fishermen contribute a much greater percentage of the overall striped bass mortality than do commercial fishermen. Apparently, the powers that be at ASMFC did not agree.

The regulation that will be in place for recreational fishermen in the ocean out to three miles is one fish per day with a 28- to 35-inch slot. In the Chesapeake Bay, the size limit will be 18 inches with a one-fish bag.

The ASMFC did leave the states a chance to come up with a conservation equivalency that will reduce striped bass mortality by 18 percent. They can do this in a number of ways, including closed seasons, bag limits, size limits or combinations of all. The states have until Nov. 30 to submit these plans to ASMFC for approval. Delaware will have a public hearing between now and Nov. 30, when the plans will be presented.

The subject of circle hooks was also addressed. The ASMFC decided to require the use of non-offset circle hooks when bait fishing for striped bass after Jan. 1, 2021. The delay will give anglers time to learn how to use circle hooks, and tackle shops and wholesale dealers time to adjust their inventory.

I don’t believe any of these regulations will have much of an impact on Delaware anglers. Striped bass fishing has been so poor since Superstorm Sandy that a 28- to 35-inch slot and one-fish-per-day bag limit won’t make any difference. In fact, I would welcome the chance to catch one rockfish between 28 to 35 inches a year, let alone a day.

New reef at Site 11

On Monday, the DNREC Fish and Wildlife Division sank a new structure on Reef Site 11. The retired 215-foot cruise ship joins the 997 New York City subway cars and several other barges and ships to become the largest single structure on this reef.

The ship was prepared for sinking by Coleen Marine in Norfolk, Va. This company has prepared several ships for Delaware’s artificial reef program, including the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Twin Capes that was sunk on the Del-Jersey-Land Reef last year.

Site 11 lies 16.5 nautical miles off Indian River Inlet at 38 40.600N 74 43.300W. The new structure will provide excellent habitat for black sea bass, tog, bluefish, croaker and flounder.

Fishing report

Winter has hit us all of a sudden and changed the fishing pattern quite a bit. Tog have finally started to bite, with more keepers caught every day as boats anchor over inshore structure. The Outer Wall, as always, is a very popular location.

To say I am a bit hesitant to toggle off that wall would be a major understatement. The first time I did that was on the Grizzly with Capt. Jerry Blakeslee. I was much younger then and it seemed like an adventure. Today, if I had to do it in my boat, I would go striper fishing in the canal.

For those who have not tried this, all you do is drop your anchor away from the Wall, back up toward the Wall, then throw the toggle into the big boulders. Toggles vary from concrete poured into tin cans to rebar twisted into hooks. Once the toggle is secure, you come tight on both the anchor rode and the toggle line, and start to fish, hoping both hold if a big sea tries to dump you on the Wall. Good luck.

A much safer way to catch tog is fishing from the sidewalk at Indian River Inlet. Sand fleas and green crabs have accounted for lots of shorts, with a few keepers to six pounds.

Sea bass fishing remains good at the Del-Jersey-Land Reef. Charter and private boats are catching limits of sea bass plus a few porgies and flounder. The flounder are running to seven pounds.

If you have the right equipment, daytime swordfishing is very good in the canyons. One boat went three for four, releasing one and pulling the hook on what they described as a brute. They also had a large bigeye tuna. Another boat caught dolphin on the lobster pot balls and then deep-dropped for swordfish, catching three.


  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter