Fish on: Seizing an opportunity to save the striped bass

COURTESY PHOTO Greg Clements and a 45-inch bass caught on a surface popper on an early morning trip to Plum Gut.
Greg Clements and a 45-inch bass caught on a surface popper on an early morning trip to Plum Gut.

The striped bass fishery along the East Coast from Maine through the Carolinas is in serious trouble and stands a very good chance of flatlining as it did in the 1980s.

Things were so bad then that I went for almost five years without catching a striper.

Finally, recognizing the problem, most of the states instituted a high minimum size limit and a reduced bag limit on the fish. In April of 1989, New York instituted a size limit of 36 inches with one fish per angler per day. These restrictions up and down the coast allowed many more bass to reach breeding age and the fishery entered into a decade of improvement with many more bass available to everyone, commercial and sport fisherman alike.

Just last week the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) held an open public meeting at Stony Brook University attended by over 250 people. The purpose of the meeting was to provide scientific facts about what is going on in the bass population now and to solicit public support for several suggestions that ASMFC is offering to improve bass populations in the future.

This assemblage was chaired by officials and technicians from ASMFC and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and attended by sport fishermen, surfcasting club members, fishing guides, for-hire boat captains and owners, commercial fisherman and others who came to listen and respond.

In a nutshell, ASMFC’s findings indicate that striped bass stocks have been in a steady decline since the peak year of 2006. More importantly, there has only been one above-average spawning year (2011) resulting in a large decline of juvenile fish, which grow to supply the spawners of the future. And other years dating back to 2000 were sub-par, especially 2013. ASMFC had prepared several scenarios to reverse this nosedive in numbers of fish caught and their estimates of the probable results of instituting each part of the plan.

Those scenarios had been widely disseminated and publicized prior to this and the other nine meetings like it, so that the attendees were well prepared to plead their cases during the part of the meeting set aside for public comment.

You can view all of these scenarios at

Trust me when I tell you that this is a lot of data to review. But the gist of what all the sport fishing community’s speakers want implemented boils down to these points: using 2013 data as the baseline for measurement, instituting a one fish bag and a minimum 32-inch limit and getting the new rules implemented on January 1, 2015.

These new regulations are forecasted by ASMFC to reduce fish harvesting by 25 percent, resulting in more bass for everyone in the future.

So what can you do about improving the future of striped bass fishing? Please take a few minutes to send an email to Mike Waine, at the ASMFC, [email protected], and tell him what you want to happen. I did, supporting all three points and none of the others that would dilute efforts for a rapid recovery. You don’t have to agree with my ideas but you do have to say something or miss your chance forever.

Mr. Waine will add your comments to the huge response he has gotten from sport fisherman everywhere and when ASMFC reviews the public’s desires in mid-October and issues their new regulations in late October, we’ll have a better chance to put our favorite sports fish on the road to recovery.

Remember these regs will affect all of the maritime states along the East Coast so do it now and feel free to “cut and paste” my recommendations to the email to Mike Waine if you care to.