I receive regular updates from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife in tracking certain programs and initiatives. Understandably, COVID-19 has hampered administrative activities and delayed release of a few reports along the way, but staffers continue to do everything possible to keep us up to date while also meeting requirements set forth by NOAA Fisheries and management bodies like the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).
In August I received the Marine Fisheries Administration (MFA) monthly report for June which had a few noteworthy items I thought other New Jersey anglers might find interesting. First, MFA staff compiled and submitted a red drum compliance report to ASMFC that showed New Jersey anglers harvested 1,331 red drum (redfish) in 2019, which equates to 4,107 pounds of recreationally caught redfish.
The red drum is a regular annual visitor to the Garden State, primarily late summer into the fall in the southern half of the state. My buddy Danny Yaniro who owned Captain’s Quarters Bait and Tackle on Long Beach Island holds the standing state record for red drum in New Jersey, a 55-pounder caught in 1985 on Great Bay. That record should stand for a long time as it came prior to the implementation of a coastwide slot for redfish; the recreational bag and size limit is now one red in a slot of 18 to 27 inches.
Also included in the MFA update was a compliance report sent to the ASMFC related to 2019 cobia landings. New Jersey is considered a de minimis state for recreational and commercial cobia fisheries meaning we don’t have much of an impact on coastwide management efforts. In fact, according to NOAA’s fancy new fishing effort survey (once called MRFSS, now called MRIP), there was not one recreationally harvested cobia in New Jersey in 2019.
Here’s another interesting state record of note; on August 9, 2019, Len Andalis caught a 90-pound, 6-ounce cobia while fishing at McCries Shoal, eclipsing the previous state record by just over 3 pounds. It appeared on the August 22, 2019 cover of The Fisherman Magazine. And you wonder why I regularly make fun of NOAA Fisheries and their MRIP?
In other news, New Jersey must adopt new mandatory circle hook requirements striped bass in 2021. According to the MFA report, staff has participated in meetings to discuss the implementation plan due back to ASMFC on August 15, ultimately deciding against inclusion of any exemptions for the circle hook requirement for 2021. In Massachusetts for example, the circle hook mandate on striped bass currently affects only those anglers not fishing aboard for-hire vessels.
In responding to the August 15 deadline, MFA infers that New Jersey state rules related to use of inline circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with whole or cut natural baits will apply to all anglers, private or for-hire. “Next steps include finalizing regulatory language, developing draft outreach materials, and finding sources of funding for printing outreach materials,” the report stated. More to come.
In terms of the health of striped bass, the state’s 2019 tagging survey on Delaware Bay resulted in the highest number of striped bass (355) since 2011. According to state research, the juvenile abundance index from the Delaware River Seine Survey in 2019 was above average and ranked 13th in the time series, which hopefully bodes well for the future of striped bass.
Sometime this fall we should receive information from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources on the status of their young-of-year striped bass survey, which tracks reproduction rates in Chesapeake Bay. The 2019 juvenile striped bass index out of Maryland was tabbed at 3.4, well below the 66-year average of 11.6, so let’s hope those numbers are up in 2020 as well.
On the other hand, I dread the thought of what NOAA’s striped bass numbers through MRIP will look like.