Stripers as gamefish

It is really easy to get behind the striper for gamefish movement. After all, I spent thousands of dollars and countless nights chasing after the damned fish. It borders on obsession for many of us. If there was a Church of Bass, we would be there every Sunday morning and probably few times during the week…

So what is the problem?

Gamefish for striped bass would be a  wonderful thing. There would be no more commercial fishing for stripers, no wild striper in the seafood markets. No more stripers  masquerading as a other fish under the heavy sauce in many restaurants. Only recreation anglers would be able to keep a striped bass and only according to the limits of their respective state.

So what is the problem?

Well, what the gamefish accomplishes is that it takes the commercial share and gives it to the recreational sector. The same sector , recreational anglers, who according to some studies kill 80% of all stripers already. So why not give them the whole stock to bludgeon to death?

I know, I am painting a grim picture of our sector but let me explain. If you took commercial share and gave it to recreational, don’t you think there wouldn’t be voices amongst us right away asking for MORE keepers? The Party boats and charters would be first, give us THREE fish a day ! After all, we just took all the allocation from commercial sector. Some states would say the same. Raise the limits. Kill more bass! Plenty of fish in the ocean now !

How  is this going to help striped bass stocks recover?

Of course you might be of opinion that striped bass stocks are as healthy as they have ever been. I can’t agree with you but you are certainly entitled to your opinion. After all, no one can count all the fish in the sea.

There is one thing that cannot be disputed. More boats are fishing for stripers today, more charter boats, more party boats, more private boats. More surfcasters than ever before are also chasing after the same fish. I don’t think anyone can dispute that. You can argue that striped bass can take this increased pressure. Again, I will disagree but I don’t have science behind me. All I can tell you that I never caught less fish, that my friends on Long Island never caught less fish then last year. That many of my friends along Northeast never caught less fish than this year. Is it possible for stripers to be migrating offshore? Absolutely. Is it possible that we suck at fishing? I guess..

What is the solution? I am not sure. I would personably like to see increased size limits and no special limits for charter and party boats. I mean, how the hell we can justify have two brothers, one on a party boat, one in the surf, fishing same water, have different limits? And how just is for a guy in NY to release the fish because its an inch short of a keeper and then have a guy in some other state keep it because his state limit is lower? This happens with fluke all the time. This is insane. The species should be managed as whole, with same limits for everyone from Florida to Canada.

My point is gamefish movement is a great thing to get behind it, I am all in favor. But making striped bass a gamefish does not do a darn thing for conservation unless we are willing to look at ourselves as ones that already take most of these fish. I mean, boat, surf, kayak, whatever…. and no, there is no denying that if we take commercial allocation and “put in on a shelf” and not give it to recreational sector, it would help the striper stocks. But so would more stringent regulations, same size and limits for all states..putting those who feed restaurants under the table by illegal pin hooking in the slammer would help greatly too. You know what else? If we would educate current anglers on proper release techniques..because I see all kinds of things out there.

ok, rant over..have a nice day…time to get my ass to the construction site


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41 comments on “Stripers as gamefish

  1. Jim M.

    Agree with what you said, and Chuckg’s comment – keep thinkin’! It is terrible with bass in my part of Mangano land, and it’s obvious something has to be done. If this myco thing gets out of control then it’s a huge pool of guys decimating the Hudson and resident fish and then we’re back to the 80’s. Hope it doesn’t have to go that distance – again…

  2. Bill K.

    The entire East Coast should have same size and bag limits, commercial killoffs should be treated as Federal offenses when this occurs, resulting in loss of equipment, preventing recurrent scenarios. NYS DEC will take your equipment, boat, trailer, and vehicle for serious offenders. When and if they catch you…these little poaching beach bums are small potatoes in the larger scheme of things in their minds. The DEC tried taking my fathers boat because while trout fishing, they said he was fishing for largemouth bass out of
    season…good thing they didn’t.
    All im saying is the game should be fished by the same rules from Fla. To ME…

  3. Bruce Bjork

    Thanks for the rant, increase size limit, decrease bag limit consistent regs FL to ME. I’d leave the commercial guys alone.

  4. Greg Sperry

    I agree,
    back to the ‘old school keeper’ 36 inch
    they should have never change it, back then, charter and recreational all had the same limit.
    Who says you cant go back?

  5. Jb1bad

    I hang out with some of the old timers from sheepshead bay who have been fishing our coast since the 50’s commercial, charters, recreational. They support their families and made a life for themselves fishing just like the rest of us do everyday at our daily jobs. Shut down the commercial side and a lot of good people are out of work. Unfortunately I agree that if you shutdown the commercial side most recreational anglers will react as you said – more for us. Human nature.

    How much trouble does a person get into for buying illegal bass? There are poachers and those who support them that should be held accountable.

    DEC needs to raise the bar and level the playing field along the entire coast.

    Not an expert myself but maybe somebody can post best practices for catch and release.

    Stricter enforcement for everyone, better education and more awareness are key.

    I rather eat fluke and porgies anyday.

  6. Jim L

    Release all stripers over 24 inches. And only keep 2, the bigger ones don’t taste as good anyway. This way the breeders will not be taken and allowed to reproduce. This would be a move to replenish the fish population as we all know has been decreasing the last few years.

  7. Irish

    Slot size fish and no multiple fish for pay boats. Look in any dumpster in the lots at montauk any night and you’ll find wasted fish in most of them

  8. fishtrek

    Back in the early times after reopening we had 1 at 36″. Go back to that & do not allow the capt and mate count as fishing people on a charter, only use the paying customers in the count. And still allow the comercials to exist. All good points.

  9. Ken

    From my point of view I’ve been saying where headed for another moritorium for years, less small fish, numbers going down every year. I’m sick of seeing 20-30-40lb fish taken from the Canal by guys who claim to care about Bass but take every big fish they catch day after day, how much Striper can you eat/sell I’m just saying !!!. I’ve had people call me nuts when I release a big one. Make it just like Redfish down south Slot Limit 28-32ins ??? even that may present problems wiping out a year class or two. I just don’t know the answer, all I can do is keep releasing my big fish. I know ask Obama

  10. fishinthedark

    Slot limit is the only solution, 2 fish a day for all, no difference for the party boat, 6 pack or the surf guy.

    One fish at 26-30 and one trophy fish at 48 plus,
    Lets the party boats and 6 pack and even the shore guy take a fish home to eat and lets a guy keep his 50 lber.

    Let draggers and any other commericial guy fishing ground gear of gilnets to keep their bycatch no matter what the size and count it towards the commericial quota.

    The fish aren’t out deep they just aren’t here and we need to do something about it soon or we be back to a moratorium. I not for big Government but what human nature keeps repeating to us
    (Think Wall Street here and the Big Banks) is that self regulation just does not work, Greed for lack of a better word is what killing this fishery and until it is curbed by what ever means you are going to see less and less fish.
    that’s my rant ):o

  11. Chris

    I agree that there needs to be tougher enforcement. The money to hire more Environmental Conservation Officers does not come out of thin air. In issue #8 of SJ, Witek wrote a great article on the topic called “Licensing Salt Water Anglers”. I would recommend that you all read it if you haven’t already.

    Along with increased enforcement, I feel that greater attention needs to be directed towards the forage fish of the northeast. Anadromous river herring and catadromous American eel need access to rivers along the northeast coast via fish ladders or the removal of dams to maintain healthy population densities. Bunker populations are being continuously decimated by factory ships and need better protection. These fish sustain striped bass populations.

    The third area that needs attention is ecosystem based management. Setting regulations will have little effect on increasing SB numbers if the regions where the striped bass are migrating to are ecologically defunct. The Chesapeake Bay, Hudson River and all of their associated tributaries need better ecosystem management.

    Yes, size and bag limits do affect SB populations. But I feel there are greater, more important issues that need to be dealt with first. I believe if more attention was placed on the three issues that I discussed, we would start to see healthier SB populations in the future.

    -rant over

  12. bunufish

    Slot limits… I shake my head when I see party boat postings of 10-20+ bass taken in the upper sizes. I can’t say that this happens all nights and on all boats, because I have been on my share of bass trips with not even a blue to show for it. But between the party boats and the non-catch release charters… I can’t imagine that we’re not affecting the bass somehow.

    I also know that most people who go on party boats are happy with a catch that they can keep… so allowing the regular guy with his family to bring home a bass would make them happy, whether it’s 24inches or 48inches. I’d rather allow the 48inch to produce another future crop now, and let that 24 incher make a happy story for the family. Maybe give the party boats/charters an incentive to tag and release the larger bass.

    it says that a female can begin breeding at age 4 (~24in) but reaches full breeding potential at age 8 (~32in). Anything after 32 and into the 40’s and 50’s are probably those cream of the crop fish with good survival genetics to make it to large fish. I dunno, I’ve been noticing the mouth of the bass caught in recent years and it seems to be smaller than some of the those that I see in photos from years past. Maybe it’s just me or maybe I’m comparing smaller fish to larger ones. =)

    But I agree with Z, as sucky as I am with catching bass… it’s sad when it feels like this year is worse? than the last. It may well be the location I am at and refuse to change too much, but the frequency of coming across a bass has dropped.

  13. Rob K.

    exactly!! 1- fish per man no matter how you fished for it. I have been saying that for years about the fluke size, all the states should be the same size regulation! these idiots are killings all these 30-55lb bass from boats under the bunker schools for 3-4 good seasons now!anyone who can snag a bunker is a hero latlely why kill them for a pic at the doc on the scale. carry a camera! should be a rule for every commercial
    charter/party boat.
    “point -click-and release” I love my tasty bass , but i would not eat anything over 12-18 pnds. and that is 2-3 a year if i am lucky.

  14. ChrisC

    In agreement with Ken & Chris. I say slot of 28-32, but nothing over. I dont want to hear about trophy fish right now. Have a scale weigh it properly and release. Get a camera take a pic. You can have any size fish made into a mount without ever killing it.

  15. Charles Witek

    There’s only one way to increase the number of bass, and that’s to reduce F. We really don’t have to get to fancy about how that’s done, with respect to slots, seasons, bag limits, etc. Assuming the current 20″ producer/28″ coastal reference points (just so we keep comparing apples with apples, as any change in the reference points will also change the impact of a given F), if you reduce F, which encompasses both harvest and dead discards, you will leave more fish in the water, have a better chance at creating a more naturally stratified age/size structure, etc.

    There are a lot of ways to reduce F. Gamefish actually is one, if along with the elimination of the commercial fishery, target F is reduced so that the “savings” from closing the commercial fishery are not merely shifted over to the recreational side which, as Zeno points out, would have no conservation value at all.

    A slot could do it, too, but never think that slots are a panacea. First, if there was a fixed slot, as some are suggesting, it could put too much pressure on weak year classes, and badly deplete their numbers before they reach prime spawning size. Let’s look at recent years. Between 2004 and 2010, striped bass recruitment was generally sub-par (using the Maryland young-of-the-year index, which over time seems, in my opinion, to be the best proxy for the overall health of the coastal migratory stock.) 2007 was very slightly above average–13.something vs about 11.5 for the average–but any given 3-year average fell well below the mark. So if you have a slot targeting immature fish (the current 28″ limit is based on the belief that about 50% of the females are mature at that length; depending on what research you read, 100% are mature somewhere between 32 and 36″), or even the barely-mature fish which produce the fewest and least fecund eggs, you can put a real hurt on the population before it ever makes a significant contribution to the next generation. That’s a biological problem. And if you use a slot the right way–changing it each year to target the most abundant year classes and/or protect those which are most vulnerable–a lot of folks will lose track of the regulations, and take out-of-slot fish. That’s an enforcement problem. There’s also a behavioral problem. It’s no secret that bass fishermen like to catch big bass; I know that’s my personal preference. And a lot of those big bass are caught on bait, and at least with some baits, that can lead to a high percentage of gill- and gut-hooked fish that are unlikely to survive release. If a slot is in place, they’re just put back to die, which has no conservation value at all. In addition, anglers like to show off big fish, and tend to hang them from Bogas, which can cause the internal organs to shift and tear, also leading to mortality, or wave them around in the air waiting for a camera to be found and enough photos to be taken, action that stresses the bass and, particularly in the case of a large fish already exhaused from a longish fight, makes survival a more problematic issue. Those fish, too, can end up being killed and wasted as a result of a slot, while today, a fish that looks to tired to survive can at least be put to use (I note here that I haven’t taken a bass home since ’90 or ’91, so I’m not using this argument as an excuse to kill fish, but sometimes for whatever reason, a bass isn’t going to survive release.) So while a slot may have an upside, it has a downside, too.

    A larger size limit is also a possibility. There is a lot of merit in setting the minimum size so high that every female can spawn only once. But on the flip side, a large size limit assures that almost all the harvest will be comprised of females, and that the smaller and individually less reproductively important males will be underharvested. That’s probably not a good thing.

    In my view, the first step is to reduce the limit to 1 fish. Then adjust the size limit upward, if necessary, to the point that could effectively assure that F would remain below 0.25, and preferably closer to 0.20. That should eventually contribute to a better population, not because the number of spawning-sized fish increases, although it likely would (as counterintuitive as it may seem, spawning success cannot generally be correlated to SSB; except in those cases when SSB has well and truly crashed, as it did in the late ’70s and ’80s, to the point where it physically cannot produce enough young for a dominant, or even an average, year class, there is no linear relationship, since a smaller adult population will generally produce fewer young which, because they face less competition, have a higher individual survival rate, while a larger spawning stock will produce many more young, but they will have a much higher M in Year 0, so little if anything will be gained) but because there would be a greater number of year classes represented in the SSB, which provides greater resiliency when there are consecutive years of poor spawning and thus “holes” in the age and size structure.

    If you’re really set on a slot, you can get to the same place, but you need to do other things, such as mandate the use of circle hooks when bait fishing, perhaps close the season in some places during midsummer when water temperatures get too high (leading to increased release mortality) and perhaps following Florida’s lead and requiring fish to be released in the water, and not lifted out for weighing or in-air photos, all of those measures aimed at minimizing release mortality of the largest bass.

    There is no question that the bass population is declining, and given the YOY data, it should get steadily worse through at least 2017. After that, the dominant 2011 year class will hopefully begin to reverse the trend. Unfortunately, good Maryland YOY figures seem to correlate to cold winters, so it is far from unlikely that 2012 YOY figures will again be in the tank. We should know next month. After that, all we can do is wait for ASMFC to release the next baseline stock assessment, which should be out early in 2013, and be ready to advocate passionately for any harvest reductions that might be indicated. For the folks that Zeno mentioned in his initial post, on both the commercial and recreational side, will undoubtedly be out in droves, doing their best to assure that no harvest reductions take place.

  16. Glenn H

    Catch & release should be the ticket!! Bring a camera & take pics.Bring the size back to 36″..How many fish do you need to keep anyway…I always find the same some guys saying i am giving this one to my neighbor, or this one is for a friend…Making them a gamefish would be awesome..Thanks Z.Awesome article..

  17. AMtony

    I didnt have a problem with the moratorium the first time and I wont have a problem if they do it again.

  18. Charlie P

    1 fish at 36 inches and make guys buys tags for each fish they want to keep. Tags for larger fish cost more. Same for party and charter boats. They would have to purchase their tags in bulk directly from the DEC.

  19. Richard aka Woodwker99

    Z your right there is no real good answer. Mr Witek has a good sounding answer. But like the moratorium years did to help the stock, getting every coastal state to agree on a size limit would be a start. P.S. I haven’t seen my first bass of the year yet. But then it’s summer and September is just around the corner.

  20. JohnP

    We need to get folks like Pat Augustine out of ASMFC. On e thousand well meaning surfcastersjournal posts here are trumped by votes like his , when the big decisions are made. All the good science can be called into question by the same guy who said there were too many bass out there to begin with.

  21. lurejunkie

    sounds great, and lets go back to the 1 fish per day limit. i have at least a 90 min. drive and 5 out of 6 trips this year have been zero’s, the 6th was just a couple of 20″ babies, that i totally enjoyed

  22. Dead Cell

    There should be some regulation going on – and penalties for wasted fish in dumpsters, as one poster said here. I just caught my first striper this year – a 20#. I winched it in on my heavy setup, and released it to live another day.
    I use a heavier setup (12′ heavy action rod w/ a Daiwa regal Baitcaster reel) so the fish doesn’t get a chance to wear itself out. I play it a bit and get it in as fast as possible. We should all practice C&R for the next few years and see what happens. After all, if you eat fish, there are tons of blues, porgies, larger robin fish, and fluke out there to turn into great recipies!

  23. Charlie P

    In addition to a license, the regs should require fisherman to buy tags for the size of the fish they want to keep-for example a slot. (Only 1 or 2 fish per day.) A tag for bigger fish would cost more. Party and charter boats would also have to buy the tags for their customers and pass the cost on to them. All the funds collected would go directly to enforcement.

  24. John P

    Slots, better enforcement, and a more sophisticated way of managing require time and money, but at this time I don’t get a sense the states have the money to beef up enforcement or really study this in detail. The money could come from SW Lic but our “friends” in the rec industry have done an excellent job of fighting the SW Lic.

  25. Charles Witek


    (re yesterday evenong’s post) If you’re going to say what you did, complete the sentence: “We need to get folks like Pat Augustine out of ASMFC [AND REPLACE THEM WITH SOMEONE BETTER].” Of course, the problem at that point is who you’re going to put in his place. Most folks on this board–including myself–have jobs, and we can’t take the time for four four-day ASMFC meetings (February, May, August and November] along with at least two, usually one-day joint ASMFC/Mid-Atlantic Council meetings (August and December) to address fluke, black sea bass, scup and bluefish issues (bluefish in August only). So what you usualloy is either an industry hack looking out for his own wallet or someone who finds finds his identity in his positions, and begins to think that his judgement is more important than that of his consituents. And with no law similar to the Magnuson Act that requires ASMFC to address overfishing (consider weakfish, winter flounder and Atlantic lobster, and until the last year or two, blackfish, shad and river herring, to see where that leads), that creates a very bad situation in which ASMFC coun cillors can do basically anything they want, with no meaningful constraints (so far, it’s not even clear that you can get jurisdiction over ASMFC in a lawsuit, much less challenge an ASMFC decision on the merits; a federal appealks court has decided that the Commission is not subject to the Administrative Procedures Act, which among other things determines how one might sue a federal agency.) And remember that Augustine is the Governor’s Appointee to the Commission; given how this governor treated the salt water license, what sort of appointee does anyone believe we’ll see next?

    (re today’s post) The money situation may be even worse that anyone realizes. As I think most people know, ASMFC is currently preparing a baseline stock assessment for striped bass that will probably determine how the stock is managed until sometime close to 2020. The word that I’m hearing from someone (not from NY DEC) generally in the know is that, because of a lack of funding for the DEC Marine Bureau, the agency was unable to send even one biologist to attend the latest stock assessment meeting. Given that striped bass is arguably either the most important or, at worst, second most important (after fluke) species to NY anglers, and that NY hosts the number-two spawning ground on the entire east coast, that is a pretty sorry state of affairs (thank you, all you salt water license opponents, who brought us to this state of affairs). New York may still be participating remotely (I didn’t hear whether that might have been the case; there is a fair chance that it wasn’t), and may be able to attend other meetings. However, the whole thing has gotten fairly pathetic.

    Charlie P–

    I believe that Texas actually manages red drum in that way. Each day, you can take a daily limit of small, slot fish, and you get a tag for one or two big “bull reds” when you buy your annual license. If you want any more large fish, you have to buy additional tags.

  26. Dennis

    Following back some of the net boats they leave trails of dead and dying stripers because they are only allowed to keep so many as bycatch. So the rest get tossed overboard and guys who don’t catch anything can pick a few out of the water on the way home. One day I saw more than I have caught in my lifetime, and they did that in a few hours. I don’t understand how recreational fisherman pit more pressure on them.

  27. Richard aka Woodwker99

    Charles, First let me say I agree with most of what you say. I for one welcomed the salt water license in NY but only if it was not going into the general fund. When it was postponed ( it was to come back in 3 years or so) the state of NY said it had plenty of funds earmarked for ALL DEC needs. Ask them where this funding went.

  28. Charles Witek


    They lied asbout the money, pure and simple. Just like some folks lied about the license revenues going into the general fund; Patterson originally wanted that to happen, but the bill that passed made it clear that the revenues went to Marine Resources. The bottom line is that the Marine Bureau is underfunded by a couple of million bucks that the license would have provided, and bass are only one of the species that is likely to suffer as a result.

  29. RyanF

    I just copied and pasted this from a post I made in an online forum (NJ heavy forum BTW), so all points may not apply:

    I am losing interest in a slot limit. All that would do is kill the resident populations and schools of smaller fish in the fall. These fish are a dime a dozen, almost year round…which is nice. There weren’t many of them in the backwaters in July during the last round of slot limits.

    I also have zero interest in not allowing people to kill a trophy, it is part of the game.

    If I were to make the regulations there would be a NO-KILL slot and a (2) fish bag. All bass between 35-45 inches are NO-KILL, must be released. You can harvest (2) bass from 28-35 or 45+, of which only (1) fish may be >45″.

    I would take the no-kill up to 50″, but people might miss out on catching a fat 47″ fifty. That shouldn’t happen. 45″ is just a nice even number.

    Anyway, you could take home (2) 32″ fish or (1) 32″ fish and (1) 48″ fish. The >28″ fish keep becoming the small keepers and the no-kill slot fish keep breeding and becoming the trophies. These fish would be protected for about half their life, ~25% to reach legal size (age 1-6) and then ~25% during a good chunk of their prime breeding age (age 10-15).

    Now, I don’t know all the science, but personally I would like to see healthy schools of age 10-15 fish spawning versus a smaller population of true “cows” which don’t seem to be being replaced. Protecting these fish will also ensure that there is a continuous trophy fishery rather than beating up on good year classes for a few seasons every decade+…..

    No trophy tag nonsense, we all see how the bonus program goes down.

    Everything coastwide or it doesn’t work.



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