What happens if you’re targeting bluefish with bait and j-hooks but get into a mixed-school with some bass? With new rules passed by the ASMFC, those striped bass may not be retained for harvest.

On Tuesday, March 16, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board (Board) met via webinar from 1 – 4 PM to further address the striped bass circle hook issue and its implementation. Roughly 100 members of the public attended the meeting including just a couple media representatives with The Fisherman included, of course. Rather than rehashing the details of this meeting itself and what led up to it once again, you can read about it right here.

On the agenda for the March 16th meeting were the following three items:

  1. develop a definition of bait that would require the use of circle hooks;
  2. identify methods of fishing that would require the use of circle hooks;
  3. discuss how to handle incidental catch of striped bass when targeting other species with non-circle hooks.

Based on the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee, the Board approved the following.

Definition Of Bait

  • “…bait, which is defined as any marine or aquatic organism live or dead, whole or parts thereof.”

What this means:

  • This one is pretty clear, as bait has been defined. Like anything else, it does leave a bit of interpretation and possible workarounds for those unscrupulous anglers out there, but for the rest of us it’s pretty clear.

Methods Of Fishing That Would Require The Use Of A Circle Hook

  • “This shall not apply to any artificial lure with bait attached.”

What this means:

  • While the tube and worm exemption was already approved, we can now add scenarios such as bucktail jigs with the addition of pork rind (or squid, or strips of fish, etc.) as well as eelskin plugs to the exempt list (meaning NO circle hook is required.) However, when it comes to such methods as the rigged eel (a big one for me, personally), this was left to the state level to be addressed.

Handling Of Incidental Catch Of Striped Bass When Targeting Other Species With Non-Circle Hooks

  • “Striped bass caught on any unapproved method of take must be returned to the water immediately without unnecessary injury.”

What this means:

  • This was both a big sticking point for the Ad Hoc Committee, as well as the Board, as it’s not quite as easy of an answer in the real world as it is on paper. In short, if you are targeting any species other than striped bass with bait and a j-hook, and you catch a striped bass, you must return the striped bass to the water as quickly as possible and without undue harm. Problems ensue when addressing the task of enforcement and proof of intent should it make its way to a court of law, but we’ll leave that problem for another day.