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While black sea bass season is now open in MA & CT, anglers in those states must take care not to drift into neighboring state waters where the season remains closed.
By Toby Lapinski  |  May 21, 2018

As we here at The Fisherman have been reporting, black sea bass have been a hot topic of discussion this off-season. From changing seasons, to debate over bag limits and minimum sizes, the wait is finally over, sort of, as we can finally begin to harvest these tasty little “sea biscuits,” even if there is, as you’ll see, a general lack in the uniformity of the seasons here in Southern New England.

At the February Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Council’s (ASFMC) Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Management Board meeting, the board approved Addendum XXX to the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan. Using a combination of exploitable biomass distribution and historical harvest, the addendum established recreational harvest allocations for three regions: Massachusetts through New York, New Jersey as a stand-alone region, and Delaware through North Carolina. The respective allocations are 61.35%, 30.24% and 8.41% of the recreational harvest limit. The addendum passed by a vote of 6 in favor and four opposed with a regional split in the vote. (The four northern states opposed it.)

This north/south split led to much outrage from the angling public in the northern region, and the northern states eventually filed a letter with the ASMFC on March 16, 2018 which appealed to the Policy Board to go back to the Management Board to initiate an addendum or amendment to that original decision. Following the review of the appeal, the ASMFC approved modified regulations for 2018, but things are still not perfect.

Both New York and Rhode Island have their black sea bass seasons set to open on June 23 and 24 respectively. However, the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut had their season openers on May 19. This means that in parts of Eastern Long Island Sound if you hook a fish at the beginning of your drift on a dropping tide and your eyes wander from your electronics, you could very well be in violation of New York’s closed season by the time you net your catch. And the same scenario is set up to take place in Buzzards Bay if your drift happens to take you into fertile Rhode Island waters.

While there is no changing things for 2018, if you have any sense of logic and you’d like to do your part to avoided this nonsense come 2019, stay tuned for the expected public hearings on management of black sea bass next off season.

Connecticut – OPEN, 5-fish bag limit, 15-inch minimum.
OPEN, 5-fish bag limit, 15-inch minimum.