Proposed striped bass regulations draw mixed reaction
On Aug. 29, I attended the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission striped bass public hearing in Dover. It began at 6 p.m. and by my count there were 13 members of the public in attendance.
The representative from ASMFC presented a summary as to why further restrictions were required on striped bass. This is due to the fact that the spawning stock biomass (large females) has fallen below the level that the scientists believe is needed to sustain the stock. Also, the entire striped bass population is overfished and overfishing is occurring. Therefore, action must be taken to stop the overfishing and restore the striped bass spawning stock biomass in the shortest amount of time.
Three options were presented for public comment. Option 1: Status quo. Take no action and keep the current regulations in place. Option 2: Place an 18 percent reduction on the commercial quota and an 18 percent reduction on the recreational catch. Option 3: Place a 1.8 percent reduction on the commercial quota and a 20 percent reduction on the recreational catch.
A show of hands was asked for as each option was called to a vote. Option 1 received seven votes. Option 2 received one vote. Option 3 received one vote.
Several members of the audience spoke in favor of Option 1. The general comment was there are plenty of striped bass in the ocean and bay, and there is no need to further restrict the catch.
One audience member, a representative of the Saltwater Guides Association, spoke in favor of Option 2.
One audience member spoke in favor of Option 3.
If you didn’t attend this meeting and would like to comment on the three options, you can email email@example.com, subject: Striped Bass Draft Addendum VI. The comment period will close Monday, Oct. 7.
The ASMFC will decide on one of the three options at its October meeting, and the states will have until November to submit a plan that adheres to that option. The new regulations will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Managing striped bass makes herding cats look easy. I first became interested in the subject in the early 1970s, and then in 1978, I represented Delaware’s recreational fishermen on the State-Federal Striped Bass Management Board. This board met at various locations for several years trying to come up with a solution to the declining striped bass stock. Each state had its own solution, and that involved punishing the other states while leaving their puny regulations intact.
As an example, Virginia had an obviously dead or injured regulation that said if a fish was obviously dead or injured, the fisherman could retain it. If the fish was caught by a hook, it was injured. If it was caught in a net, it was injured. In other words, every fish that was caught could be kept.
The other problem was there was no way for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to enforce the regulations. Finally, Sen. Chafee from Rhode Island introduced a bill to make the states enforce ASMFC rules or have a moratorium placed on that species in that state.
After all of this, it took Gov. Harry Hughes from Maryland to step up and place a moratorium on striped bass that was quickly followed by Delaware and then by all the other states in the ASMFC.
That was a long time ago. Today we find ourselves back where we started with an overfished stock. It would appear that Delaware recreational fishermen have little interest in striped bass, while the commercial fishermen believe there are plenty of stripers in the water. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s deja vu all over again.”
As this is written, we await the arrival of the remnants of Hurricane Dorian. The latest forecast has it passing well offshore and that’s a good thing, but it will still kick up some big seas and stir up the bottom.
Before the storm, fishing was good. Sea bass and dolphin were caught from the inshore ocean with flounder catches still a bit off. The inshore reef sites saw some of this action, but the Del-Jersey-Land was a better bet. The inshore lumps saw wahoo and a few tuna.
Offshore, the marlin bite remained hot. Multilabel releases of blue and white marlin were made along with some big dolphin for the box. Daytime swordfish catches were very good for those who have mastered this technique.
The surf saw kings, spot, blues and a few pompano caught on bloodworms or FishBite bloodworms. Indian River Inlet had some interesting visitors. King mackerel showed up with the bluefish, and kingfish were caught along with croakers and spot.