The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Striped Bass Board decided Wednesday to address the sharply declining numbers of striped bass along the Atlantic seaboard, including the Chesapeake Bay, by requiring an 18 percent harvest reduction relative to 2017 levels.
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.