While anglers are enjoying the abundance of 20″-26″ fish, that doesn’t mean the stocks are “good to go”.
By Captain Andrew Derr
[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou may have seen images of excellent striped bass fishing up and down the eastern seaboard this Fall season. While anglers are enjoying the abundance of 20″-26″ fish, that doesn’t mean the stocks are “good to go”. The majority of these fish are in the 2015 spawning class and the future of the fishery depends upon the their survival and there spawning success moving forward. Forthcoming changes in the regulations are necessary for these fish to mature and spawn a few times at least before being harvested.
Male striped bass mature between the ages of two and four and females mature between the ages of four and eight. If regulations stay as they are currently, this stock will be severely depleted and we will have nothing to grow the future striped bass population with. My website states that no stripers will be kept on my charters until the stocks have rebounded. I tell my clients the same thing everyday. “Keep any fish you want except these bass.” I tell them why and most seem to agree with and respect that notion.
The threshold for taking management action to conserve the population is upon us. The “spawning stock biomass” — an estimate of the number and size of reproductive age females in the stock — has fallen below 91,436 metric tons. The preliminary assessment by the National Marine Fisheries Service found the spawning stock biomass fell to 68,476 metric tons in 2017.
Hopefully these fish will get the respect they deserve in the form of tight regulations and enforcement of said regulations. The time is now. Striped bass are so susceptible to over-fishing and we are seeing that play out right before our eyes, just like we did in the 1980s. So while we can enjoy the solid bite we are experiencing in the Northeast this Fall, we need to stay diligent in our fight to protect this iconic and beautiful species. Protect the stocks. Protect the spawners. Save the breeders.