DEC is currently accepting comments on their proposed regulation to require non-offset circle hooks when fishing with bait for striped bass.
We knew this was coming back when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council (ASMFC) declared stocks of striped bass were down significantly coastwide and member states had to devise plans to reduce striper mortality.
The first step DEC took to comply with the mandate to reduce striper mortality was to adopt more restrictive slot limits for stripers. This next step requiring a non-offset circle hook regulation will apply statewide, unlike the slot limit which varies greatly between recreational and commercial fishermen, and those who fish the Hudson River, Delaware River and in NY’s Marine District.
Hudson River striper fisherman have a slot limit of 18 to 28 inches, necessitating them to toss back all stripers smaller than 18 or larger than 28 inches.
Striper fisherman in the Marine District as well as those in the Delaware River watershed however, have a slot limit allowing them to keep stripers measuring between 28 to 35 inches. That disparity in the name of reducing striper mortality does not sit well with many of the Hudson striper fisherman I speak with.
Not to mention the continuation of the commercial harvest of striped bass for a limited number of striped bass permit holders. They can keep stripers between 26 and 38 inches for use as food in designated portions of the Marine District.
The disparity could and maybe should be a topic to weigh in on when commenting on the circle hook proposal.
Seasons remain the same for 2021 as they were last year with the Hudson striper season opening on April 1st, on April 15 for the Marine District, and from May 15 to December 15 for licensed commercial fishermen. The striper season remains open all year in the Delaware River and its West Branch that borders Pennsylvania.
Back to the proposed non-offset circle hook regulation. For those not familiar, you may be wondering just what is a non-offset circle hook?
First of all, a circle hook is a different shape than the traditional “J” hook. “J” hooks are literally shaped like the letter “J” and can be either inline or offset. Circle hooks are just that. Either in a true round or circle shape or in a slight oval shape and can be offset or inline as well.
The proposed regulation defines a non-offset circle hook as “…a fishing hook designed and manufactured so that the point and barb of the hook are not offset from the plane of the shank and bend, and the point is turned perpendicularly back towards the shank to form a circular or oval shape.”
Simply stated, a non-offset circle hook keeps its hook point and barb exactly in line with its shank and bend. So, if you laid a non-offset circle hook on a table, it will lay flat with no protrusion of the hook point or barb whatsoever. If you lay an offset circle hook flat on a table, it’s hook point would stick up (or down) not allowing it to lie completely flat or perpendicular with the table surface.
The advantage when fishing any style offset hook is, they tend to hook a fish more quickly and easily than an inline hook. Some say an advantage of the inline circle hook is it generally hooks fish firmly in the jaw bone for a more solid hook up.
According to DEC marine fisheries biologists at the stakeholder meeting held at New Paltz a while back on the subject, inline circle hooks are much less likely to “gut hook” stripers.
They proposed, and it stands to logic, that gut hooked fish returned to the waters have a much lower chance for survival than a fish solidly hooked in the jaw.
There was at least one striper charter captain at the meeting who disagreed with the stated benefit of circle hooks. He said in his experience, he found circle hooks increased mortality of stripers he boated on the Hudson.
Is there room for a compromise leading to a regulation that requires circle hooks but allows them to be offset? What is your take on the subject?
If you would like more information, the full text of the proposed regulation can be found at DEC’s website.
If you want to register an opinion on the proposed inline circle hook requirement, you have until March 8th to comment. Comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to:
Division of Marine Resources, 205 N. Belle Mead Rd. Suite 1, East Setauket, NY 11733. After reviewing public comments, DEC will be adopting and publishing a final regulation.
Happy Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping until next time.
News and Notes
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