Black Sea Bass 2023 CT Regulations Being Formulated
On Feb. 22, the Marine Advisors Group (MAG) of CT DEEP, along with interested recreational fishers and others, joined the virtual meeting hosted by Justin Davis, Ph.D., and Assistant Director of the Fisheries Division, Marine Fisheries Program (MFP). This Marine Recreational Fishing Regulations Informational Meeting was focused on coast-wide harvest reductions jointly voted on by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC).
Included were discussions on stock status and potential regulation options on Scup (Porgy) and Black Sea Bass, with an emphasis on gathering related input ahead of finalizing 2023 regulations for these two species that face a 10% recreational harvest reduction.
By maintaining the status quo for scup, the Recreational Harvest Limit (RHL) for 2023 would be exceeded. In answer to that, the Commission and Council opted to reduce the possession of commercial harvest in federal waters and shorten the season. That in itself was not enough to meet the required harvest reduction, so states were required to modify their state regulations to achieve the full reduction.
Because over 90% of the recreational harvest occurs in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York, these northern region states have agreed to the following uniform set of scup regulations: BOAT: Minimum length-10.5”; SHORE: 9.5”; FOR-HIRE: 10.5”; Bag Limit: 30 fish; SEASON: May 1-Dec. 31. FOR-HIRE BONUS SEASON EXCEPTION: Sep. 1-Oct. 31, 40 fish.
Black Sea Bass is an entirely different story. This species also is faced with a 10% coast-wide recreational harvest reduction for 2023. However, considering the trend is on a downward slope, and if the status quo is maintained, the reduction would not meet the RHL. Therefore, as in recent years, the Commission and Council have allowed states to develop state-specific regulations in order to meet the reduction rather than adopt a coast-wide recreational harvest. To meet this task, CT DEEP MFP developed four options to meet Connecticut’s required harvest reduction.
Options that were reviewed addressed substantially reduced bag limits, as well as summer and fall mandatory 14-day federal closures. A sore topic discussed was the well-established predatory black sea bass fishery that produces high numbers of problematic growing juveniles that negatively impact other fisheries by encroaching on the food supply.
Additionally, it was also brought out that perhaps these juvenile fish should somehow be considered/included in stock estimates. So it is understandable why some fishers will have difficulty in believing current stock assessments and harvest numbers when attempting to justify tighter restrictions, even in light of downward trends in the Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) and recruitment.
After much in-depth discussions and angst but less painful, the nod by advisors and others contributing input overwhelmingly opted in favor of Option 1 to be considered when adopting 2023 regulations for black sea bass. The only change from 2022 would be an increase of the minimum length to 16.5”.
On The Water
Low pressure passed the Great Lakes and across Canada, sending a weak warm front through the area followed by a cold front, then by another cold frontal passage. A quick-moving weak system moved in, then another frontal system as low pressure lifted north. Finally, high pressure moved in but had been replaced by the effects of winter storm Piper before ushering in warmer air temperatures. Meanwhile, Long Island Sound experienced some rain, gusty winds, compromised visibility, variable seas, and water temps holding in the low 40’s.
One of those weather events caused anglers to take a breath as forecasters played up snow, rain, and windy conditions that basically turned out to be a disappointment for winter wishers and more of the same for the shoreline. Nevertheless, anglers took heed and back-burnered tentative plans to hit the stocked trout and salmon rivers for more stable conditions.
During those times, anglers continued to connect with trout (rainbows, browns, brooks, and tigers) in the midst of varying water flows, levels, and temperature fluctuations. By now, many of the stocked trout spread out, finding stretches of water that were in their comfort zone and presented more of a challenge for conventional and fly-fishing anglers.
Every once in a while, fish are caught that do not quite measure up to any of the identification charts or images. Markings, color, and/or other physical characteristics in combination just do not look right. When that happens, anglers fishing in waters like trout management areas where fish species are usually familiar, generally think of odd-ball species that might have been thrown into the mix or, perhaps, an osprey or other predatory bird that may have inadvertently dropped its catch.
That was the case when Dr. Lee Greenwood of Madison caught a fish that had recognizable characteristics but did not totally match up to any of the species stocked or found in those particular waters.
Air and fluctuating water temperatures were the key elements affecting most lake and pond fishing. The sudden drop in barometric pressure and colder temperatures put a lock on many of the species caught during periods of warm and high-pressure systems. After a few days, fishing inland sweet water gradually picked up as conditions moderated and more opportunities became available to successfully work spinners, swimmers, nymphs and, streamers.
Do not give up on broodstock Atlantic salmon that have been taking spoons with swing single hooks and flies when presented nearly on their nose. And do not ignore semi-active holdover striped bass stationed up in the key tidal rivers — soft plastics, jigs, and spoons — unless giving them a well-earned rest after last season is a consideration.
FYI: In other fisheries news, there are no new marine regulation changes for 2023 that would affect striped bass, bluefish, blackfish (tautog), or summer flounder (fluke).
Fly Fishing: Outstanding Opportunity for the experienced or beginner! Booking inland and marine fly fishing lessons for 2023 with World Fisher, certified Master Fly Fishing Casting Instructor and Fishing Lodge Director. From trout, salmon, steelhead, and sea-run browns to striped bass, bonefish, permit, and tarpon, etc., techniques learned and honed will improve your fishing.
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, ice fishing, flies/fly fishing, rods/reels, clam/crabbing supplies, fishing trips, licenses/permits, and much more, 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 and Authorized Penn Premium Dealer, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better.