It is very obvious to most anglers what is happening in their home waters when it comes to striped bass fishing. Here in New York, there are a number of issues that draw the ire of those concerned with the management of this key recreational species. At the top of the list are gillnetting, the circumvention of the haul seining ban for striped bass, abuses within the tagging system and the ongoing concern of protecting large breeding females. There is even a segment of the recreational sector that wages venomous attacks on any angler that dares to kill a big striper, regardless if it is the only striper he has kept over the course of several seasons or it is the biggest bass of one’s lifetime. Personal preferences aside, no one has the right to condemn and inflict their own standards on another angler providing that person is within the law and abiding by existing regulations.
But what many of these same anglers are not aware of is what is going on outside of our home waters. Two recent issues pertaining to striped bass fishing in Virginia caught my eye recently. I hear a lot of criticism about any kill tournaments that target striped bass in our region. Well, check out what recently occurred down in Virginia Beach in the 8th Annual Pigzilla Tournament. This is a month-long striped bass tournament that offers prizes for the 30 largest stripers in the adult division and five prizes in the youth division. The results of that event are tough to stomach for any angler concerned with management of the species, and the numbers of big bass killed during the contest make anything along this part of the Striper Coast look like child’s play. The top 30 fish entered in 2018 ranged in weight from 41 to 60 pounds, 11 ounces. Of those 30 fish, 21 of them weighed over 50 pounds. All five fish in the youth division weighed over 50 pounds. One really has to scratch their head and wonder why so many places? Even setting the standings at five fish might save a lot of big bass from being dragged to the scales.
It gets even worse. The other issue that came to my attention concerns the relatively new practice of keeping big bass tethered to a rope in order to allow them to be culled over the course of the fishing day. Facebook comments by some Virginia anglers told of witnessing as many as three bass at a time being towed in the wake of other boats.
Lee Toliver, a writer for the Virginia Pilot, spilled the beans on this practice in a recent online article in which he wrote “Anglers hoping to catch the striped bass of a lifetime, or enhance their chances of winning a tournament, increasingly have been using a technique where they cut a hole in the fish’s bottom jaw, tie a rope through it and drag it through the water. Culling, called roping in saltwater circles, can bloat the striper’s stomach to make it heavier, but also tear apart its jaw and potentially drown it.”
Hopefully, his coverage of the practice will lead to it being brought to an end. To read the full article, go to: https://pilotonline.com/life/wildlife-nature/article_04f0bf1e-0d12-11e9-8daf-7ff7d0e80b98.html
Coincidently, at the January 9 meeting of Virginia’s Finfish Management Advisory Committee, it was clear that Matthew J. Strickler, the state’s Secretary of Natural Resources, feels that something should be done to help protect the striped bass fishery. He suggested they look at making changes to the current size and bag limits in an effort to help the striped bass fishery recover. He also expressed concern that any changes resulting from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s analysis of the current stock assessment will not take effect until 2020.