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One of several board meetings held at the 78th annual Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting that took place in New Hampshire. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Paul Merwin of Madison hit it right when he came upon a Montauk striper blitz and then caught and released approximately 70 fish on the fly. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
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Members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) recently gathered at their 78th annual meeting in New Castle, New Hampshire, where various management boards hashed out aggressive agendas. Science-based technical committees delivered comprehensive reports detailing many aspects of our fisheries including stock assessments and management plans.
Of keen interest were agenda items that addressed coast-wide changes in regulations that would reduce the removal of striped bass (Morone saxatilis) from its biomass. The 2018 Benchmark Assessment found striped bass to be overfished and that overfishing is occurring. Draft Addendum VI addresses this and targets reducing total removals (including commercial) by 18 percent from 2017 levels.
Stock status, removals by sector, disposition, recreational catch and release, and management options were among the things discussed. A breakdown of preferences and comments from public hearings were collated and displayed, followed by lengthy discussions on the various options to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Ultimately, Sub-Option 2-A2 (one fish at 28- to 35 inches) for Section 3.1 for the ocean fishery was approved, along with conservation equivalency (CE) proposals to achieve an 18-percent reduction in total removals relative to 2017. The result for Chesapeake Bay was one fish at an 18-inch minimum with the same CE 18-perecent reduction.
Since catch-and-release practices contribute significantly to overall fishing mortality, the option for requiring mandatory circle hook regulations was adopted. It was then passed that partner states submit implementation plans by Saturday, Nov. 30 before the board takes action in February 2020. Circle hook requirements must be implemented by Jan. 1, 2021, although all other provisions of Addendum VI must be implemented by April 1, 2020. Addendum VI was then approved to Amendment 6 to the Atlantic Striped Bass FMP as amended that day.
Generally, recreational striped bass fishers agree the biomass is in decline, especially that of mature egg-producing females. There is agreement that female fish grow larger than males and that most stripers of greater than 30 inches are female. A mature female can produce three million eggs during one spawning cycle. Striped bass are a long-living species that live up to 30 years and, if those breeding females are removed, a huge number eggs will be lost.
We need to do our part in the conservation of this popular fish. Although upsetting to some, this is a step in the right direction.
On the Water
Long Island Sound inshore water temperatures were hovering around 60 degrees as we set the hands back one hour to end Daylight Saving Time. Slipping from October into November, the weather did not change much from the bouts of rain, wind, and sloppy seas, even though there were days where the sun popped through after frosty mornings. Still, fishing is holding up as we now look forward to Thanksgiving.
The striped bass bite remains solid with most of the action and top-water blitzes coming from a smaller class of fish. Poppers and other top-waters are being inhaled, along with flies like clousers, deceivers, and half/half varieties. Ten- to 12-pound and eight-weight outfits are providing immeasurable sport for fishers taking advantage of the opportunity. Remember, when catching these smaller fish, a quick, safe release is vital to reducing the kill rate. This is something that has shocked fisheries management personnel when looking into what was thought to be successful releases, but turned out to be release mortality. This revelation is, in part, causing changes in the upcoming regulations considering that more than 90 percent of the striped bass caught, released, and harvested are on the backs of the recreational sector.
Along with these stripers feeding on peanut bunker, harbor blues have also been crashing the party. Provided that the lure creates a commotion or is flashy in nature, these choppers-to-be will smack it with a vengeance and run like there is no tomorrow. Look to the beaches, rip lines, and reefs. Both of these home favorites have also been taking chunk baits, jigs, swimmers, trolled umbrella rigs, and, of course, the irresistible bass favorite: a live eel. For some better action, head to Faulkner’s, Six Mile, Southwest, Browns, and The Beacon.
Blackfish (tautog) are all over crabs and are moving in closer. The 40-foot reefs and rock piles have mostly given way to 20- to 25-foot depths, walls, and jetties. Expect most catches that are harvestable to be small legal size fish in the three-pound class. However, five- to six-pounders and some to nine pounds are around. Double-digit white chins are few and far between compared to years past. Expect to see cooler temperatures in the days ahead that should prompt an increase in activity, especially closer to shore, where jigs will be more effective, along with the old mainstays like hi-los and side-by-side rigs. For added action, both the black sea bass and porgy (scup) bite continue to bring slab fillets to the table. The deeper the reef, the bigger the fish!
Weather has hampered the freshwater scene, as well. On days where wind and fast water were not an issue, fall fishing has been good. Trout catches in the Trout Management Areas and trout parks have been up, largemouth bass activity has been good ahead of the turnover, smallie action is varied, pike action improved, catfish and carp are looking better, pickerel are OK, and perch, black crappie, and sunnies are good. Definitely keep an eye on the Shetucket for the broodstock salmon, key tidal rivers for searuns as the temps drop, and brackish water for any white perch.
Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.
For all things fishy including flies, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better...
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