Approved sub-options included allowing, within established seasons, 1 fish per angler per day between 28 and 35 inches in ocean waters. Public comment on this sub-option had supported, by a more than 4-1 ratio, setting a 1 fish limit with a minimum size of 35 inches. In the Chesapeake Bay, the approved sub-option was limiting anglers to 1 fish per day with a minimum size limit of 18 inches. It passed with by a 12-3 vote.
There was also a question about whether circle hooks should be mandatory when fishing with bait. Max Appelman, striper fishery management plan coordinator for ASMFC, told commissioners there was “little doubt that circle hooks save fish.” Circle hooks reduce fish mortality from “deep hooking” as the fish swallows the bait. Of the 5,003 comments received by the public related to circle hooks, 4,930 were in favor of their mandatory use.
The board approved unanimously the option requiring states to implement regulations requiring use of circle hooks with the intent of reducing striped bass release mortality in recreational fisheries.
The ASMFC board set Nov. 30, 2019 as the due date for draft implementation plans. The board will act on those plans in February 2020 with final regulations in place by April 1, 2020. The circle hook requirements must be in place by January 2021, ostensibly to allow charter outfits and bait and tackle shops to swap out gear and stock assortments.
Today I ran an “Open Boat Trip” for 4 anglers and based upon my solid results from the prior 2 days as well as last week’s limit trips I figured it would be a “cake walk” Naturally, the Tog had other thoughts in mind and I wound up swallowing a large piece of “humble pie”. We started on the CT shallow drop that was so good on Thursday but on the end of the flood instead of the ebb. Two hours of a strong effort only produced 4 smallish keepers.
Off we go to the nearby reef in 50’ but the new moon tides blew us off that piece in less than an hour. A lost of lost tackle, a number of short Tog and only one 17” keeper to show for our time there. So, I realized we needed to find another shallower piece of bottom more protected from the screaming tides.
The last drop of the day was a favorite 40’ spot near Fishers and while the ebb tide was pulling pretty hard there at least it was fishable. Again, a lot of sorting was experienced but we did eventually pull 6 more keepers to 5.5# for 2 hours-time. I can’t recall the last time I worked so hard to come up just one fish short of a boat limit. Just when you think you have Blackfish almost figured out, they throw you a curve. I guess it’s one of those challenges that keeps us coming back to the fight time and time again.
Looking forward to the next weather break and some lighter tidal flows to get back on track. Spots are still available on a few upcoming trips so give me a call if you want to get out.
Finally, as an FYI, yesterday’s fishing was lousy with very few bites on known blackfish spots.
Wishing everyone tight lines and perfect blackfish!