On Thursday, November 13, the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council voted in favor of one striped bass per day between 28 and less than 38 inches in length for 2020. The council’s vote at a packed meeting hall in Stafford Township allows New Jersey to join other coastal states like Rhode Island, Virginia, and possibly Delaware in implementing slightly different ocean options based on conservation equivalency allowances designed to meet an 18% coastwide reduction.
For ocean waters in New York, the approved option for striped bass was one striper from 28 to less than 35, though anglers on the Hudson River in New York will fish on a one fish bag from 18 to less than 28 inches from April 1 through November 30. Delaware anglers are also looking at a one at 28 to less than 38-inch option (in addition to the 28 to 35 option), with a one striped bass bag and slot from 20 to less than 25 inches on the Delaware Bay, River and tributaries between July 1 and August 31. Check TheFisherman.com as that process slogs along.
Pennsylvania striped bass anglers fishing on the Delaware River estuary can keep one striper at 28 to less than 35 inches from January 1 to March 31, and from June 1 to December 31, and two fish from 21 to less than 24 inches from April 1 through May 31. In the non-tidal Delaware River, Pennsylvania anglers will fish on the one at 28 to less than 35 restriction.
The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council also voted to continue the striped bass bonus program (SBBP) which utilizes a portion of unused commercial striped bass quota in New Jersey by way of a limited number of SBBP tags. Based on the council vote, New Jersey is expected to offer tag holders the opportunity to tag and harvest one fish from 24 to less than 28 inches starting May 15 and running through the end of the year. While some in attendance asked to consider an option to allow for a larger trophy striper to be harvested under the SBBP, a handful of others asked council to suspend the program entirely in 2020.
For reference sake, the SBBP accounted for less than 15% of the unused commercial quota of 215,912 pounds in 2019 by way of just 5,382 tagged 24- to under 28-inch striped bass totaling 31,239 pounds; this while Long Island gillnetters and pinhookers targeted stripers to the tune of nearly 800,000 pounds a year, with Massachusetts handing out more than 860,000 pounds of commercial striper permits to just about anyone with a pulse and a checkbook.
On the bluefish front, New Jersey will adopt a three fish bag limit for private anglers this season, and a five bluefish bag limit for those fishing on charter and party boats. New Jersey’s fluke season will open on May 22 with an 18-inch minimum size, three fish per angler (17-inch minimum size, three per angler west of COLREGS on Delaware Bay, and 16-inch minimum size, two per angler at Island Beach State Park.) Black sea bass, porgy, and tautog limits will all remain the same.
Twenty minutes prior to the February 13 meeting, the full 118-person occupancy limit of the room at Stafford Township Municipal Building was reached, keeping 40 or more members of the public packed in the hallway while forcing many to turn back after arriving at the Manahawkin complex. Staff with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife modified the night’s agenda to put striped bass and bluefish towards the top of the talking points, allowing standing room only anglers outside to come in one at a time to present their thoughts and opinions.
The next scheduled meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council is on Thursday, March 5 at 5 p.m. That meeting will also be held at the Stafford Township at 260 East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin, NJ.