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ASMFC takes first step to change Striper regs

Photo contributed

Two Canadian anglers pose with a 47-inch, 46 lb. "cow" they caught on April 30, in Albany aboard Capt. Chris Leach's "Predator Charter."  A photo of Capt. Leach weighing the striper at the dock's been circulating and rumored it was caught from shore by an unknown angler are now debunked. 

May 10, 2019 01:00 pm Updated: May 10, 2019 02:00 pm

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council’s (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board met on April 30 and took the first step in mandating coastwide changes in striped bass fishing regulations. 

Their 2018 Atlantic Striped Bass Benchmark Stock Assessment found that striped bass have been overfished along the east coast. It determined that while recruitment of new fish stock is fluctuating, fish mortality is above the established threshold, and the spawning stock biomass is below the minimum level. 

These two negative markers combined to evoke a statistical trigger to take action to prevent continued reduction in the stock of striped bass along the eastern seaboard.

The main motion passed at the meeting tasked the board’s Planning Development Team (PDT) to develop options that would reduce fishing mortality by 17 percent.

They listed the options as follows:

*Minimum fish size for the coast and the Chesapeake Bay

*Slot Limit that would prohibit harvest of fish over 40 inches

*Mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait coastwide to reduce discard mortality

*A provision that states could use seasonal closures in conservation equivalency proposals

*Apply need reductions equally to both commercial and recreational sectors

*Apply needed reductions proportionally based on total removals in 2017 to both commercial and recreational anglers

What we can expect is a potential combination of possible actions including a coastwide minimum size limit, a slot limit eliminating taking fish over 40 inches, mandatory use of circle hooks, and proportional reductions to both commercial and recreational fisherman.

While all these options remain on the table, its very early in the process, and it remains unclear what recommendations will be made and ultimately adopted. The Striped Bass Management Board will meet again in August to review the PDT’s preferred options. Public hearings will be held to collect stakeholders’ input. 

The board and the ASMFC will then amend their requirements for member states to create or change regulations to achieve the goals set by the council. This is expected to be completed at their fall meeting in October of 2019 and implementation of changes in regulations is anticipated to be effective during the 2020 spring striper season.

So, what does it all mean for local striper fisherman? One thing is certain; change to striper regs is coming to the coast in 2020, and is highly likely to affect inland striped bass fisheries rules for  the Hudson River spawning run. 

The fact that states could use seasonal closures in conservation equivalency proposals is key here. Once methods are adopted to achieve targeted results, conservation equivalency allows New York, and other states in the ASMFC, to achieve the target sought by reducing or closing seasons. 

While this option remains on the table, it may not be necessary if adoption of a combination of the other options listed achieves the same targeted result in reductions of mortality. 

That’s where NY’s representation on the ASMFC comes in. I have full confidence in our DEC representatives on the ASMFC. They are professional marine fisheries biologists dedicated to protect the fishery while minimizing pain for recreational fishermen through overly burdensome or ineffective regulations. 

The process allows for NY to tailor regs that comply with the ASMFC, and achieve the desired protection, while minimizing impact upon fishermen.

I was also happy to learn that the NYS Senate Legislative Proxy to the ASMFC is John McMurray. John is a recreational fishing guide for striped bass and other marine species in the NY Bight. He served in the US Coast Guard and as an executive with the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). 

CCA is a sportsmen’s organization that promotes issues like declaring striped bass as a game fish affording it protection against commercialization. I worked with John to protect striped bass and other marine fish when I was an ECO lieutenant in NYC. We worked together toward common goals like fighting poaching and supporting recreational fishermen. 

John has the interest of the viability of the stock at heart, and as a captain and striper guide, he represents interests of recreational striped bass fisherman. John has some interesting ideas on how to achieve the goals set by AMSFC with the least impact on sportsmen and women.

Now is the time to consider getting active by joining or forming organizations that promote our passion of fishing striped bass in the Hudson River. Our biggest enemy here may be apathy.  Let’s explore in future columns the best way to be sure our position is clear and our voice is heard. 

Happy Hunting & Fishing until next time.

News and Notes

The Northern Catskills Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Hunting Heritage Banquet will be held on Saturday, May 18 at Anthony’s Banquet Hall in Leeds. Doors open at 4:30 pm. For more information, call Doug Little at 518-817-1161 or email Doug at dlittle@nwtf.net.

Remember to report poaching violations by calling 1-844-DEC-ECOS.  

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