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STRIPED BASS MORTALITY: A GUESSING GAME

It’s a sad fact that illegal harvesting and bycatch mortality figures are considerably higher than most people think.

By Fred Golofaro  |  April 28, 2019
STRIPED BASS MORTALITY: A GUESSING GAME
The results of a recent DEC Police bust.

One really has to wonder what the real numbers are when it comes to striped bass mortality. For all the numbers agencies like the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission factor into species like striped bass, I can’t help but wonder if those numbers are grossly underestimated. The illegal harvesting by striped bass by “sport” and commercial fishermen I believe far exceeds what most people believe. Likewise, bycatch mortality from gill nets and draggers, and unreported catch numbers are equally suspect. No – I don’t have hard numbers to prove the point and I’m not sure how you go about coming up with “accurate” mortality figures. What I do know is that over a lifetime of being on and around the water, speaking and hanging with recreational fishermen, for-hire captains and mates, dragger captains, baymen and many others who play or earn a living from our marine waters, that the problem runs far deeper than most would imagine.

Our DEC Police are greatly overextended when it comes to patrolling New York’s marine District and the Hudson River, given their numerous other responsibilities. That makes it all the more important for the fishing public to lend their ears and eyes to illegal fishing activities. If you witness someone breaking the law, do not confront the subject. Getting a license plate number or boat registration can be helpful. Photos or video of the illegal activity if it can be done without compromising yourself can also be helpful. Call 1-844-332-3267 for the 24/7 DEC Hotline. You can also use the following link for a contact list of officers in your area and add their numbers to your phone.

http://www.dec.ny.gov/about/687.html. Below is just a small sampling of what goes on at the “sport fishing” end of the spectrum from recent DEC Police blotters.

On April 11, ECOs Michael Wozniak and Adam Muchow patrolled the waters of the New York Bight and Raritan Bay by boat for illegal possession of striped bass. The striped bass season opened March 1 in New Jersey, and on April 15 in New York, and the temptation to fish on the New York side of the state line can be too great for some anglers. Four summonses for possessing striped bass out of season were issued to fishermen from New Jersey who had been actively fishing the waters of New York State. The ECOs explained the different regulations between the two adjacent states and the importance of knowing where you are when recreating on the water. A total of five striped bass ranging in size from 33” to 38” were seized. Unfortunately, only one of the bass was still alive and released back to the water, while the remaining four were donated to the needy in Richmond County.

With the striped bass season opening in two days, ECOs Connor Dodge and Zachary Kochanowski patrolled Pelham Bay Park on the evening of April 13. The area is popular with local fishermen and complaints had been received about striped bass being kept before the season opened. Four separate groups of fishermen were found to be in possession of striped bass, including one group with seven fish and another group with six. Only one fish was still alive and released. In total, 15 out-of-season striped bass were seized and 11 summonses were issued.

On March 24, ECOs Craig Tompkins and Kevin Wamsley conducted striped bass enforcement on the Hudson River in Westchester County. While checking individual anglers, the ECOs discovered several fish on shore next to two groups fishing. When interviewed, the individuals admitted to catching and keeping the fish. The ECOs directed the individuals to empty the bags on the shore, and found three more Striped Bass. While issuing tickets to the violators in the parking lot, multiple fishing groups were returning to their vehicles with fishing gear. The ECOs split up and began checking the individuals and their bags. Four anglers were found to be in possession of out-of-season Striped Bass, which they had taken from the Hudson River. A total of seven summonses were issued. All the illegally taken fish were seized and donated to a local zoo. Striped Bass season begins April 1, on the Hudson River north of the George Washington Bridge, and April 15, south of the bridge and in marine waters.

On March 29, ECO Craig Tompkins patrolled access points along the Hudson River in Westchester County looking for fishing activity. Anglers taking advantage of the warm temperatures were out in high numbers. ECO Tompkins observed multiple groups fishing at Croton Point Park when he observed several fishermen catch and keep Striped Bass. The season for Striped Bass at that location does not open until April 1, and as the ECO approached the first fisherman, the officer observed a garbage bag stuffed in the rocks along shore. When asked, the fisherman admitted it was his bag and that it contained six Striped Bass. After issuing the fisherman a ticket for possession of Striped Bass out of season, ECO Tompkins saw two anglers packing up their gear and walking to the parking lot. The ECO met the two men at their truck and watched as one of the men placed a bag containing fish on the ground. ECO Tompkins emptied the bag and found 12 Striped Bass. One of the men admitted to catching and keeping all of the fish. This subject was also issued a ticket for possession of Striped Bass out of season. The ECO released any fish that were still alive back to the Hudson River; the remaining fish were donated to a local zoo. All tickets are currently pending in the Village of Croton-on-Hudson Court for a date in April.

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