After a 4-1/2-month hiatus, the recreational black sea bass season will reopen on Saturday, May 15.
In New Jersey, the first part of the open season runs from May 15 to June 22 with a 10 fish bag limit and 12-1/2-inch minimum size. A limited bycatch fishery will begin on July 1 and run through August 31 with a two-fish bag and12-1/2-inch minimum size. Finally the fall fishery will begin on October 8 with 10 fish bag and 12-1/2-inch minimum size through October 31, with a 15 fish bag and 13-inch minimum size limit from November 1 through December 31.
As for Delaware, sea bass anglers have a simpler regulatory framework, with a 12-1/2-inch size limit and 15 fish bag from May 15 all the way through the end of the year. New York on the other hand will not reopen until June 23 with a 15-inch size limit and three fish bag through August 31, then a seven fish bag from September 1 through the end of the year.
Black sea bass is managed jointly along the Atlantic Coast by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. An operational assessment that incorporated new recreational harvest estimates was peer reviewed in August 2019 and found that the black sea bass stock north of Cape Hatteras, NC was not overfished and overfishing was not occurring in 2018.
According ASMFC, starting in 2007, spawning stock biomass (SSB) of black sea bass increased rapidly and reached a peak in 2014 at over 76 million pounds, then decreased slightly. In 2018 SSB was estimated at 73.65 million pounds, nearly 2-1/2 times the updated biomass target of 31.07 million pounds.
The management program divides a total annual quota between the recreational fishery (51%) and the commercial fishery (49%). The recreational fishery is currently managed on a regional basis using a combination of minimum size limits, bag limits and fishing seasons to achieve a regional allocation of the recreational harvest limit.
For more information on black sea bass and other species managed along the Atlantic Coast go to ASMFC.org.