The striped bass is in big trouble. They are overexploited, which means that the number of striped stripes in the population is below the established targets. And, overfishing is happening, which means anglers and commercial fishers all across the coast are catching too many scratches in the water.
If we don’t start rebuilding the fishery, we will fish them to extinction. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has instituted Amendment 7 to the Striped Bass Management Plan to correct the situation. ASMFC Fish Stock Managers operate coast-to-coast in state waters, from shore to the three-mile limit.
Earlier this month, the ASMFC Striped Bass Council met to review the Amendment 7 initiatives after a lengthy public comment period on the proposed changes.
Significant progress has been made to stabilize the stock. Here are highlights of the initiatives approved by the Board of Directors with comments from Tony Friedrich, Vice President/National Policy Director, for the American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA). Visit www.saltwaterguidesassociation.com for detailed informational articles.
The fishing mortality (F) and spawning stock biomass (SSB) management triggers (how we measure the health of a stock) have been kept strong rather than weakened, while adding a new requirement to a rebuilding plan in place within two years of determining the stock is overfished.
Mortality of recreational releases
Gaffs will now be illegal to use on striped bass. Stripers caught by unapproved methods should be released safely, and it is recommended that States conduct awareness activities on best catch and release practices and educate anglers.
Striped Bass can now begin to rebuild in a low recruitment scenario. Additionally, if the October stock assessment indicates we are in serious trouble, the Board can move quickly to rebuild (still providing opportunities for public comment) rather than launch a lengthy addendum process.
Many ASMFC commissioners felt that conservation equivalence (CE) reform was the most important – and most controversial – action needed to help striped bass under this amendment. Conservation equivalence allows states to use different measures (regulations) to achieve desired harvest limits if a state could scientifically prove and have the measure approved. The Commission considered that EC should not be used in the short term with striped bass. The EC has been systematically abused by some states in the past, leading to increased overfishing. The EC can no longer be used if the stock is overfished (below the SSB threshold). We are currently in a state of severe overfishing. Once we exceed the threshold, EC proposals cannot use Marine Recreation Information Program (MRIP) estimates with a percentage standard error (PSE) greater than 40.
ASGA believes that the Commission’s system is broken and that it needs to act more responsibly in managing the fisheries. “We should have taken the appropriate action in 2014 when we discovered that the stock would be overfished in a few years. But, with the flexibility of the ASMFC, we ignored it,” said Tony Friedrich of the American Saltwater Guides Association. “Managing striped bass is only one symptom of the problem. Reforming the commission is the remedy.
Where’s the bite?
Fresh water. The freshwater bite for largemouth bass has been exceptional this week as the fish are still feeding in pre-spawn mode. “Turner Reservoir in East Providence produced a large mouth for customers using minnows, and trout bite slowed at Willet Avenue Pond.” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside.
Tautog bite slowed down a bit this week, we fished the west side of Jamestown on mussel beds and only managed one keeper. No fish to speak of in the General Rock, North Kingstown area. Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said: “Fishing in Tautog has slowed down. With an enhanced scup bite, many anglers experience the scup sealing their crabs before the tautog has a chance to bite it. “Some anglers hook up with small keepers at Kettle Point, but overall a lot of shorts are caught all the way 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 broke at 2am last week but wouldn’t stop to eat on their journey east refusing an assortment of lures at each stage of the water column. Most lungers and some fish over 20 pounds were caught at first light on surface plugs like the Guppy JoBo. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “Guests are catching bluefish in the bay.” Fishing in Greenwich Bay for Bluefish was good this weekend. North Kingstown angler Steve Burstein caught four fish in about 40 minutes of trolling. John Littlefield said: “The bluefish have arrived and are pushing the pogies to the surface. We’re just starting to see that (hope there’s some bass below). Anglers troll from Sabin Point to Godard Park and catch stripers with a few keepers mixed in. Client Albert Bettencourt trolled the tube and worked the Conimicut Light area and caught a 41 and 32 inch striped bass. Anglers who fish the Barrington Beach area from boats do well with size limit fish. Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait said: “It’s been a very good weekend for striped bass anglers. Catch fish under, over and on the edge of the slot. Soft plastic baits worked well as the fish chased small baits. And at the end of last week we had a lot of pogies in the water with anglers doing well from Mount Hope Bridge to Sakonnet Bridge.
Fluke (summer plaice)/squeteague fishing is resuming along the coast, much earlier than usual. The fishing at Block Island has been good too. “Squeteague bites in Greenwich Bay and the Barrington River where a fisherman caught a nice fish off the bridge,” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle. On Saturday, May 21, 2022, Peter Johnson of Connecticut said, “I limited the fluke in eighty feet of water in the Block Island Wind Farm area.” Peter is a strong believer in light. He uses a 15-pound braid, gulp-tipped jigs and stingers, and sometimes squid thongs. Angler Rich Hittinger said he and Bob Murray were accidentally restricted to about five miles from the wind farm.
Dave Monti holds a captain’s license and a charter fishing licence. He sits on various boards and commissions and has an advisory practice focused on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries issues and clients. Send fishing news and photos to [email protected] or visit www.noflukefishing.com