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The NY Coalition for Recreational Fishing is pushing for legislation to make striped bass a rod & reel only fishery.

By Fred Golofaro  |  May 21, 2018
A rod & reel only fishery will make enforcement simple, consistent effective management possible, and provide a stable population of striped bass.

In an effort to maintain a healthy and viable striped bass fishery, and to eliminate the abuse and wasteful practices resulting from netting activities, the NY Coalition for Recreational Fishing (NYCRF) is pushing for a rod & reel only striped bass fishery. The Coalition has sent a letter authored by Dr. William A. Muller to Assemblyman Steve Englebright and State Senator John J. Flanagan requesting the introduction of legislation limiting commercial striped bass fishing to rod and reel only. Anglers are encouraged to write letters of support to their representatives in the State Senate and Assembly, as well as Assemblyman Englebright and Senator Flanagan. To find your representative and his or her contact information, go to www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/pdfs/senators2018.pdf for the senate and www.nyassembly.gov/mem/ for the assembly.

Copy of NYCRF letter:

Striped bass have been an important species to New Englanders and Middle Atlantic residents since colonial days. Until post World War II, stocks of the fish were more stable due to a smaller human population, fewer commercial harvesters, and better environmental conditions.

However, the post-World War II years witnessed the G.I. Bill, fewer full-time weekly work hours, city populations expanded into surrounding suburbs, better wages, and, for many, a five-day week instead of a six-day work week, all of which provided better access to recreational fishing and more leisure time. In addition, new technologies: better boats and motors, better fishing tackle, electronics, and four-wheel drive jeeps purchased cheap as Army surplus, produced an explosion in recreational angling hours. The striped bass became an important and prestigious species for anglers due to their fighting qualities and potential trophy sizes.

Commercial fishing also expanded in post W.W. II America. Although the same post war environment encouraged more commercial activity, commercial fleets were still small and therefore supported tolerable landings. In addition, Americans were not eating the amount of fish they do today. However, through advertising and other means, Americans developed an expanding appetite for all fish, including striped bass throughout the last half of the twentieth century. Commercial fishing pressure on stripers increased sharply in those decades and concerned citizens began to take notice.

In the 1950s and 60s grass-roots organizations were formed to fight for striped bass conservation. Bob Pond created Stripers Unlimited and in 1967 Irwin Levy, Blair Moger, and Bob Rance created Save Our Stripers; better known as S.O.S., in New York. These organizations understood that harvests were growing rapidly and management was needed. True to an American tradition beginning with Teddy Roosevelt fighting for federal preserves and also hunting restrictions, and then continuing with S.O.S., Stripers Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, and Trout Unlimited it has been sportsmen that recognize rapidly declining stocks and are the first to fight to preserve them.

Unfortunately, these efforts often fail or take decades to succeed owing to bureaucracy, ignorance among the public, and the greed of commercial harvesters who constantly scream for and demand MORE! Managers find themselves awkwardly positioned between the science that demands conservation and those who make money off our marine resources. This has been a juggling effort that has had hit or miss success and failure, but the pressure to kill never relents. Realistically, only reduced harvest gives species, including striped bass, an opportunity to sustain populations and overcome poor reproductive years. We offer the case of the striped bass moratorium years in the 1980s, when severely depressed stocks rebounded quickly when harvest was prohibited. Clearly, sustained high density populations of all fishes benefit all users including consumers and commercial interests. We need to see the long big picture rather than the myopic short view based on fast profit. This is especially true for striped bass.

Inadvertently, some management strategies that seem to be aimed at conserving stripers actually provide an incentive to kill and waste. For example, by allowing a trawler a striper by-catch, some draggers actually target striped bass, harvest the fish they are allowed, and dump the rest dead into the ocean. This is foolish and wasteful and needs to stop.

It’s time - no it’s past time to take the dollar value off a fish that means so much to recreational anglers and the local mom and pop businesses that provides boats for hire access, the tackle, bait, boats, motors, and other supplies to anglers.

It’s time for a Rod and Reel only management strategy. It is the only approach that will make enforcement simple, consistent effective management possible, and provide a stable population of striped bass. We urge you to introduce and strongly support a Rod & Reel Only Striped Bass Bill.