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STRIPED BASS REGULATION UPDATES

Following the Winter Meeting of the ASMFC on February 4, we have a slightly better idea of how 2020 and beyond striped bass regulations will shake out.
By Toby Lapinski  |  February 10, 2020
STRIPED BASS REGULATION UPDATES
With a slot limit of 28 - <35 inches enacted for much of the coast, large, breeding class striped bass will receive protection from harvest.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council’s Striped Bass board met last week in Arlington, Virginia. The meeting was supposed to go from 11:15 am to 3 PM, but as anyone who has ever sat in either in person or on the webinars knows, it always takes much longer than planned and this meeting was no exception. After getting an early start around 10:30, I finally signed off my computer a little before 6 PM on Tuesday evening.

Much of the day was spent going back and forth on conservation equivalency, fairness and uniform regulations up and down the coast, but in the end neither of those two supposed goals was wholly achieved. That said, some states came away with regulations approved, but not yet implemented, while others have a little bit of time to figure things out. So here is what was went down and what it means for you at this point in time on the recreational side of things.

A few items of note before you read on:

  1. The symbol < means ‘less than’ (see note #4)
  2. The symbol </= means 'less than or equal to'
  3. When determining the harvestable range for noted slot limits, fish which meet the lower limit (28 inches for example) may be harvested unless otherwise noted
  4. When determining the harvestable range for noted slot limits, fish which meet the higher limit (35 inches for example) may NOT be harvested unless otherwise noted

So, with that out of the way, here is what was approved at the meeting in regards to recreational Atlantic striped bass measures (* denotes updates by way of final state decisions).

  • Maine: 1 fish, 28 - <35
  • New Hampshire: 1 fish, 28 - <35
  • Massachusetts: 1 fish, 28 - <35
  • Rhode Island: 1 fish, 28 - <35; OR 1 fish, 32 - <40 for all; OR split mode 1 fish, 32 - <40 private/shore and 1 fish, 30 - <40 for-hire
  • Connecticut: 1 fish, 28 - <35
  • New York: 1 fish, 28 - <35 in the ocean & Delaware River; and 1 fish, 18 - <28 with a season of 4/1-11/30 in the Hudson River
  • New Jersey: 1 fish, 28 - <35; NJ to develop an additional CE proposal with a maximum length of 40 inches that meets 18% reduction pending TC review. All commercial/bonus proposals approved. (*NJ approved 28 to <38 option).
  • Pennsylvania:
    • DE Estuary: 1 fish 28 - <35 (1/1 – 3/31, 6/1 – 12/31); 2 fish 21 - <24 (4/1 – 5.31)
    • DE River (non-tidal): 1 fish 28 - <35 (all year)
  • Delaware:
    • Ocean: 1 fish, 28 - <38 OR 1 fish, 28 - <35 (*DE approved 28 to 35 option).
    • Delaware Bay, River, Tributaries: 1 fish, 20 - <25 (7/1 – 8/31)
  • Maryland:
    • Ocean: 1 fish, 28 - <35
    • Chesapeake Bay: 1 fish, 35-inch minimum (5/1 – 5/15); Shore/Private Boat 1 fish, 19-inch minimum (5/16 – 8/16, 9/1 – 12/10); For-Hire 2 fish, 19-inch minimum with only 1 fish >28 (5/16 – 8/16, 9/1 – 12/10).
  • Virginia:
    • Ocean: 1 fish, 28 - </=36 (1/1 – 3/31, 5/16 – 12/31)
    • Chesapeake Bay: 1 fish, 20 - </= 36 (5/16 – 6/15, 10/4 – 12/31)
  • North Carolina: 1 fish, 28 - <35

** The RI/CT/NY regional proposal of 30 - <40 did not pass, but Rhode Island’s request for same did so there might be different regulations in Rhode Island than anywhere north of New York. This would, in essence, place an even smaller slot limit on the famed Block Island fishery for boats hailing from out of state as they'd be fishing on a 30 - <35 slot. See below for the time/place of Rhode Island’s public hearing where this will be discussed.

MOVING FORWARD AND UPCOMING MEETINGS
Going forward, states still need to implement their given regulations whether or not they were decided last week. If only a single option was approved, then it’s a simple matter of following a given state’s procedure for same. However, if multiple options were approved and one must still be decided, then it off to public hearings for input before final implementation. As decided at the October 2019 ASMFC meetings, no matter what is being set for a given state, those regulations MUST be implemented no later than April 1. Failure to do so would mean a state has gone out of compliance, and that’s a whole other wormhole I’m not going down today.

MASSACHUSETTS
The Division of Marine Fisheries has scheduled public hearings and a public comment period to solicit feedback on proposed changes to commercial and recreational fishing limits to be implemented during the spring of 2020. These proposed regulations affect bluefish recreational possession limits; striped bass recreational size limits, circle hook mandates, and the use of devices to remove striped bass from the water; striped bass commercial seasons, fishing days, and size limits; black sea bass commercial possession limits and bycatch allowances; summer flounder commercial possession limits; menhaden commercial possession limits and permitting; horseshoe crab commercial bycatch allowances; sand lance commercial possession limits; sea herring days-out management and spawning closures in Area 1A; and other regulatory housekeeping items. Public hearings will be held as follows:

March 10, 2020 at 6 PM
Coolidge Middle School
89 Birch Meadow Drive
Reading, MA 01867

March 12, 2020 at 9:30 AM
Tisbury Town Hall
Katharine Cornell Theater
51 Spring Street
Vineyard Haven, MA 02568

March 12, 2020 at 6 PM
MA Maritime Academy
Admiral’s Hall
101 Academy Drive
Buzzards Bay, MA

RHODE ISLAND
The Division of Marine Fisheries Held a public hearing on Monday, February 10, 2020 at 6:00 PM, at the URI Bay Campus. All three options noted above were discussed, and public comment is being taken through February 23 after which time a final decision will be made and implemented prior to the April 1 deadline for same. Comments may be submitted as follows:

RI Department of Environmental Management
ATTN: Peter Duhamel
3 Fort Wetherill Road
Jamestown, RI 02835
peter.duhamel@dem.ri.gov

CONNECTICUT
The CT DEEP Marine Fisheries Program is holding a Public Informational Meeting to provide information on the status of important recreational species, and to provide information on planned recreational regulations for the 2020 fishing season. The meeting will be held at 7:00 PM, Thursday, February 13, 2020, at:

CT DEEP Marine Headquarters
Boating Education Center (rear building)
333 Ferry Road
Old Lyme CT

NEW JERSEY
The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) is slated to meet on Thursday, February 13 at the Stafford Township Municipal Building at 260 East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin starting at 5 p.m. Complete details on this meeting may be found HERE.