Striped bass are in big trouble. They are overfished, means that the number of spawning stripers in the population are below established goals. And, overfishing is occurring, which means that anglers and commercial harvesters coast-wide are taking too many stripers from the water.
If we do not start to rebuild the fishery we will fish them into extinction. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) instituted Amendment 7 to the striped bass management plan to correct the situation. The ASMFC managers fish stocks coast wide in State waters from shore to the three-mile limit.
Earlier this month the ASMFC’s Striped Bass Board met to consider Amendment 7 initiatives after an extensive public comment period on proposed changes.
Some major progress was made to stabilize the stock. The following are highlights on initiatives approved by the Board with comments by Tony Friedrich, Vice President/National Policy Director, for the American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA). Visit www.saltwaterguidesassociation.com for detailed information articles.
The Fishing Mortality (F) and Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) management triggers (how we measure a stock’s health) were keep strong rather than weakened, while adding a new requirement to put a rebuilding plan in place within two years of determining the stock is overfished.
Gaffs will now be illegal to use on striped bass. Stripers caught by non-approved methods must be safely returned to the water, and it is recommended that states conduct outreach on the best catch and release practices and educate anglers.
Striped bass can now start to be rebuilt under a low-recruitment scenario. Furthermore, if the stock assessment in October says we are in serious trouble, the Board can act swiftly to rebuild (still affording opportunities for public comment) rather than initiate a drawn-out addendum process.
Many ASMFC commissioners felt that reforming Conservation Equivalency (CE) was the most important — and the most controversial — action needed to help striped bass as part of this amendment. Conservation Equivalency allows states to use different measures (regulations) to reach desired harvest limits if a state could scientifically prove and get the measured approved. The Board felt that CE should not be used short term with striped bass. CE had been systematically abused by some states in the past leading to more overfishing. CE can no longer be used if the stock is overfished (below the SSB threshold). We are in a severely overfished state right now. Once we get above the threshold, CE proposals cannot use Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) estimates with a percent standard error (PSE) of greater than 40.
The ASGA believes the Commission system is broken and they need to act more responsibly when managing fisheries. “We should have taken the appropriate action in 2014 when we found out the stock would be overfished in a few years. But, with the flexibility of ASMFC, we ignored it,” said Tony Friedrich of the American Saltwater Guides Association. “Striped bass management is just a symptom of the problem. Reforming the commission is the cure.”
Freshwater. The freshwater bite for largemouth bass was outstanding this week as the fish are feeding still in the pre-spawn mode. “Turner Reservoir in East Providence has been producing largemouth for customers using shiners, and the trout bite has slowed at Willet Avenue Pond.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside.
Tautog bite slowed a bit this week we fished the west side of Jamestown on mussel beds and managed just one keeper. No fish to speak of in the General Rock, North Kingstown area. Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “Tautog fishing has slowed. With an enhanced scup bite many anglers are experiencing scup sealing their crabs before the tautog get a chance to bite it.” “Some anglers are hooking up with small keepers at Kettle Point but overall a lot of shorts are being caught all the way up to India Point, Providence,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle.
Striped bass/bluefish. East End Eddy Doherty said, “A huge school of school striped bass were breaking at 2:00 a.m. last week, but wouldn’t stop to eat on their journey east, turning down an assortment of lures at every stage of the water column. Most of the slots and some fish bigger than 20 pounds were caught at first light on surface plugs like the Guppy JoBo.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “Customers are catching bluefish in the Bay.” Fishing in Greenwich Bay for bluefish was good this weekend. Angler Steve Burstein of North Kingstown kept four fish caught in about 40 minutes trolling lures. John Littlefield said “The bluefish have arrived and are pushing the pogies up on the surface. We are just starting to see this (hopefully there are bass underneath). Anglers are trolling from Sabin Point to Godard Park and catching stripers with some keepers mixed in. Customer Albert Bettencourt trolled tube & work in the Conimicut Light area and caught a 41 and a 32-inch striped bass. Anglers fishing the Barrington Beach area from boats are doing well with slot limit size fish.” Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait said, “This weekend was very good for striped bass fisherman. Catching under, over and slot limit fish. Soft plastic baits worked well as fish were chasing small baits. And at the end of last week we had a lot of pogies in the water with anglers doing well from the Mt. Hope Bridge to the Sakonnet Bridge.”
Fluke (summer flounder)/squeteague fishing is picking up along the coastal shore, much earlier than usual. Block Island fishing has been good too. “The squeteague are biting in Greenwich Bay and in the Barrington River where an angler caught a nice fish from the bridge,” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle. On Saturday, May 21, 2022 Peter Johnson of Connecticut said, “I limited out on fluke in eighty feet of water in the Block Island Wind Farm area.” Peter is a firm believer in going light. He uses 15-pound braid, jigs and stingers tipped with gulp and sometimes squid strips. Angler Rich Hittinger said he and Bob Murray limited out on fluke about five miles from the wind farm.
Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to email@example.com or visit www.noflukefishing.com
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