If you striper fish in New York marine waters, New York Sportfishing Federation and the RFA would like to hear from you!
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), fisheries managers will not be taking any official action on striped bass management along the Atlantic Coast until a coastwide benchmark stock assessment is completed and peer-reviewed later this summer.
Jim Gilmore, director of the NYSDEC’s Marine Bureau said his department has received several inquiries about the status of the striped bass assessments, but said he won’t have anything to report or reply on until the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) finalizes the stock report and makes it available to member states.
“Currently, we understand the assessment has been completed and is being peer reviewed; we have not seen the results,” Gilmore said, adding “the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board will not be taking any action until the October meeting based upon the current schedule.”
Gilmore noted that many fishermen believed that results of the stock assessment might be available for review by the public this summer, but said it is not at this time, though as information becomes available, he will communicate back to the New York fishing community.
The status of the striped bass population along the coast has been a heavily debated issue in recent years, as many coastal regions are reporting fewer striped bass catch reports in recent years, and in some cases a complete loss of fish. ASMFC in turn has been targeted by some anglers and writers as “turning a blind eye” to the situation, and “often siding with commercial interests.”
According to feedback received by coastwide members of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), in addition to the localized comments received by the New York Sportfishing Federation (Federation), what will happen after the release of the stock assessment is just about anyone’s guess – and the answers to any future problems will not be easy to find.
“We’ve had numerous discussions among the Board of Directors at the Federation, and have heard various input from anglers throughout the New York marine district, and I can tell you that there is no common bond in terms of a recreational management approach to striped bass,” said Jim Hutchinson, President of the Federation and the managing director of the RFA.
“There are some folks who would like to see a slot limit in the neighborhood of 24 to 30 inches for a keeper striper to protect the bigger breeders, while others would like to see the bag cut in half and the size limit increased to 32 inches,” Hutchinson said. “East End captains have a view different from those on the West End, while the surfcasters as a whole are looking at options differently than guys who run center consoles, so there’s really just no angler commonality right now, except of course in terms of gamefish protection,” he added.
“From what I have observed here on the West End, something has changed over the last 4 to 5 years, and it has not been an increase in the ‘schoolie’ bass population,” said Federation board member Dr. John Meringolo of Brooklyn, who personally prefers to see a one fish bag limit with a slot size in the 28- to 40-inch range. “The bigger issue we see as recreational fishermen is the ‘poaching’ of the stock,” Meringolo added.
Bob Danielson, a Federation board member from the Great South Bay Anglers club who also sits on the New York Marine Resources Advisory Council (MRAC) said angler feedback is important at this time, particularly considering the statistical predictions. “The models prior to the stock assessment were already predicting a downturn in striped bass populations through 2017,” Danielson said, explaining that mycobacteriosis (or fish handlers disease) found in many migratory stripers associated with the Chesapeake Bay stock could be a wild card in the final assessment.
“No one really knows what effect it will have on either the total biomass or the spawning stock biomass, we all presume that it will exacerbate the downturn in population,” he added.
“I think the results from the stock assessment will be interesting and maybe educational,” said Federation board member Capt. Joe Paradiso who runs a charter boat out of Greenport on the East End. “Despite what the conclusions are you really can’t deny the fact that our striped bass fishery is on a dangerous decline.”
Paradiso is also a member of the New York MRAC who believes that smaller fish have become less abundant over the last 10 years, which he said may be indicative of poor young of the year classes. “There is a good argument out there regarding a reverse slot to protect the teen-size fish which some believe are the more successful breeders,” Paradiso says of the fish between 28 and 36 inches in length.
“However, that leaves it open to taking those ‘cows’ which are also main breeders. I think cutting the bag in half, doing away with the one fish over 40 inches, and increasing the size limit to 32 inches is a start,” said Capt. Paradiso, who said he would also support doing away with the special party/charter boat permit which allows anglers two fish at 28 inches.
For marine anglers south of the G.W. Bridge, the striped bass season is open from April 15 to December 15 with one fish at 28 inches to 40 inches in length, plus one fish greater than 40 inches (the party/charter boat limit is two fish at 28 inches).
“It is evident that something needs to be done,” said Alberto Knie, president of Tactical Anglers. “As an avid striper fisherman, seminar speaker, publication distributor and a tackle industry manufacturer, for years I’ve been pleading that we need a change and history is repeating itself.”
Hutchinson said the bottom line is that the suggested regulatory changes offered by anglers prior to the release of the benchmark assessment and subsequent management advice from the ASMFC striped bass technical committee is based solely on hunches or gut feelings and not necessarily based on the condition or needs of the Atlantic striped bass stock.
“We are all experiencing the effects of the historically strong 2003 year class moving out of the fishery combined with the relatively recent elevation of natural mortality but it is important to reserve absolute support for altered regulations until the release of the assessment,” Hutchinson said. “That way any changes can be tailored toward particular management objectives for the stock.”
New York Sportfishing Federation is interested in your thoughts on striped bass management in the New York marine and coastal district and will begin collecting opinions over the next couple of months. Would you like to see a change in bag, season or size limits to better conserve striped bass? What are you thoughts and opinions on striped bass management?
Go to www.nysf.org/contact and put Striped Bass in the ‘subject’ field followed by ‘your message.’ You can also send us mail at New York Sportfishing Federation, 72-11 Austin Street, Suite 144, Forest Hills, NY 11375.
Logo courtesy Recreational Fishing Alliance