Striped bass were a hot topic at the most recent ASMFC meeting. First, Maryland proposed a one-inch reduction in size by mandating circle hooks for the Chesapeake Bay. Circle hooks will make an impact. Frankly, circle hooks should be mandatory anyway. But, these days you take conservation in any form available. A minimal reduction in size is just one of those trade offs that’s almost expected to move the ball. Second and far more important is the review of the Biological Reference Points (BRP’s) used to manage striped bass.
Back in the early 2000’s, Amendment 6 to the Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan was passed. This was a turning point for stripers. The idea was to keep a broad range of age and size in the stock to guard against spawning failure. The decision was also made to manage for opportunity not yield. The board decided to keep fish in the water so recreational anglers could have a reasonable expectation of catching some fish. This decision moved managers to establish new target and threshold values for the BRP’s. In the chart below, the dashed line is the threshold, the solid line is the target. Another way to look at it is that we want to be at the target and can’t fall below the threshold. The threshold determines how many fish we should leave in the water. These metrics are based off spawning age females.
The new stock assessment is due out in the beginning of 2019. Several states are suggesting that the BRP’s are far too conservative. The Striped Bass Board and the Striped Bass Advisory Panel were given a survey to determine their opinion of the current state of management.