Editor’s Log: CT Sea Bass & Almost Perfect Regs - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: CT Sea Bass & Almost Perfect Regs

I can spare you the need to read this whole thing if you’re just trying to find out the basics, and that is that recreational sea bass season is officially back open, as of July 8 in Connecticut waters. That’s the headline. But I wanted to use this space to commend fisheries managers in Connecticut for really trying to find a way to make a lower recreational quota work for their recreational anglers and their charter captains, at the same time.

This all started because – pretty much – every sea bass state blew past their quota in 2022, prompting NOAA to declare that all states needed to adjust their regs to satisfy a new, much smaller, recreational quota in an effort to correct this overfishing oversight. Scan the coast and you’ll see that most states just, sort of, curled into a ball and rolled with the punches, offering smaller to (in some cases) tiny bag limits and increased minimum size limits that, have left many anglers chasing other species. And these regs also have an adverse effect on charter captains who have a harder time booking trips with anglers whose expectations are to pay for a fun day of fishing and come home with several meals of fresh fish. Sea bass are a perfect species for those patrons; they’re aggressive, they’re relatively easy to catch, they school up on structure and they’re prized for their mild-tasting, white and flakey meat.

Connecticut lawmakers really seemed to put some thought into their regulations and, through the math-driven world of conservation equivalence, they found a way to trade a little time for better regs.

As it reads now, the Connecticut sea bass regs are as follows:

Season open May 18 to June 23 and July 8 to November 28 (the season is closed from June 24 through July 7). Five fish per angler per day with a minimum size of 16 inches. Party and charter boats fish on the same regs but with no ‘pause’.

When you compare that to Rhode Island who increased their minimum size to 16.5 inches and decreased their bag limit to a measly two fish that increases to three in August. Or even Massachusetts where anglers enjoy a bag limit of five but a minimum size of 16.5 inches and a season that ends on September 7, which means it ends long before any of the awesome fishing of the fall even takes place…it’s easy to see that Connecticut wins the game up here in the Northeast. I can’t understand why other states aren’t falling in line behind Connecticut, because this kind of regulatory creativity works for everyone.

I have heard the occasional naysayer claiming that the any closure during the height of the season is unacceptable. But I disagree, particularly since they made an allowance for the charter captains who make their livelihood on providing good fishing trips, and sea bass factor heavily into that success throughout the season, especially in the summer. I’m onboard for giving up a little, in favor of gaining a lot more. In my opinion, a long season, larger bag limits and a smaller minimum size, is worth losing 14 days of summer fishing. And I’ll say it again, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and, yes, even New York should be following suit.

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