Head to Head, Striped Bass Are the Losers
Typical party (head) boat striped bass catch (left) and an average charter boat catch (upper right) with a good day surfcasting. Do the math. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Just three of the many party boats and their anglers that fish the seasonal waters of Montauk and Block Island daily. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Conservation equivalency (CE) is a term used in fisheries management defined as “actions taken by a state which differ from the specific requirements of the Fisheries Management Program, but which achieves the same quantified level of conservation for the resource under management.” In short, if it’s determined that the total allowable landings or removals be reduced by 18 percent, then a state can propose a conservation equivalent that will meet that goal, but in a different way.
This is what the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection is contemplating and, hopefully, public input will help it make a determination. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission striped bass board approved a coast-wide 28- to 35-inch slot limit with a one-fish bag limit for the ocean recreational fishery in 2020. In the interest of common ground, Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island worked together on CE proposals to the 28- to 35-inch slot limit.
Two alternatives to be considered are a 30- to 40-inch slot limit for all anglers, as well as a 30- to 40-inch slot limit for private anglers and a 28- to 37-inch slot limit for party and charter boat anglers. In order for one of these alternative measures to be adopted, all three states must adopt the identical regulation in 2020.
Some people believe that a 28- to 35-inch slot limit might be counterproductive. Concerns revolve around the possibility of more fish being removed from the biomass and killed when released if attempting to stay within the smaller slot limit. The spread of 28- to 35- inches is eight inches. With a 30- to 40-inch slot, the spread is three more inches or 11 inches total, giving anglers a better opportunity to catch a legal fish more quickly and thereby reducing the number of fish released before catching a keeper. Additionally, it would be more likely to catch a striped bass measuring 30 inches than 28 inches since the productive class of fish from 2011 would now be 30 inches at nine years old.
Here is something else to ponder: Considerably more stripers are killed when released then previously believed. Therefore, if not properly released, the removed rate escalates regardless of the slot limit, even though fewer fish would probably be killed with a 30- to 40-inch slot.
Since the primary focus is protecting and maintaining a healthy striped bass population, concerns have cropped up regarding charter and party boat anglers. This is a tough one because, in both cases, we are talking about someone’s ability to earn a living. Here is the difference. A charter boat captain’s license—commonly referred to as a six-pack since that license only allows a maximum of six paying fishers per trip—can only boat one striped bass per angler per day and six max. Most charter captains run one or two trips a day and occasionally three. That could amount to six striped bass retained per trip with one for each fisher.
A party or head boat carrying more than six paying customers needs a master’s license. Many of these vessels can easily carry 25 to 50 fishers per trip and most often do two trips daily or sometimes more when fishing for striped bass or bluefish. Do the math. On the low side, that would be 25 striped bass per trip, as opposed to six for a charter boat.
Depending on the day, you can easily spot several head boats fishing Montauk and Block Island waters. That could conservatively translate to upwards of 75 striped bass per day per vessel. Now, extrapolate that for the season. So, the question comes up: Is it fair and conservation-oriented for party boats to be under the same set of regulations as charter boats when, per trip, considerably more striped bass are removed by party boats than any other?
Given the limited CE alternatives, it would seem as though the second option would be the logical choice since more larger, egg-producing fish would be conserved. After all, our primary goal should be focused on the health and preservation of our striped bass fishery. Anything less would severely limit recreational fishing for this species.
On the Water
Long Island Sound is experiencing March water temperatures during the early part of February. Can you believe 40 degrees? Actually, recent New London water temps logged in at 40.1 degrees, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Nevertheless, the Sound is having its seasonal fits with stiff winds gusting to 55 knots and several days of small craft and gale warnings. During this period, tides have fluctuated with the Full Snow Moon creating higher than normal tides and negative lows.
Open water fishing continues to take the nod as fishers hit the lakes and especially the Trout Management Areas after their recent statewide stocking of 9,026 trout. Due to a mild winter, this year has had more open water days of fishing than in recent memory. Even the traditionally colder areas aren’t as ice fishers would like. Additionally, the shop is spooling up more line and rigging more light gear meant for springtime fishing than dealing in ice rods and jigs. Think about it. Opening Day of trout season is two months away and anglers continue to hook quality fish.
Striped bassers are hooking up in the Housatonic and other key tidal rivers like the Thames and Connecticut, even though conditions vary due to the wind and water levels. The coves off those tidal rivers are seeing limited pike action and better catfish by the main channels. Atlantic salmon fishing is still in the game, while perch, bass, pickerel, and crappie are taking advantage of early baitfish movement. Shouldn’t you?
Striped Bass Public Info Meeting
It’s decision time. Fishers’ input is needed regarding 2020 regulations for striped bass. There will be a pubic meeting regarding these regulations at the Connecticut DEEP Marine Headquarters at 333 Ferry Road in Old Lyme on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
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 the latest gear, 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...