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Aug 27, 2019 10:14 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Striped Bass Management Comment Period Open Now

Aug 27, 2019 10:24 AM

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will hold its only Long Island public input session on the coming amendments to the striped bass management plan next Wednesday, September 4, in East Setauket.The meeting will start at 6 p.m. at the Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Marine Resources offices at 205 North Belle Meade Road, Suite 1, East Setauket.

Anglers may also submit their comments in writing by mailing them to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 1050 N. Highland Street, Arlington, VA 22201; faxing them to 703-842-0741; or by submitting them online at www.asmfc.org/about-us/public-input.

The ASMFC is considering a number of potential options for new restrictions on the harvest of striped bass, including the imposition of a “slot” limit or a simple increase in the minimum size to as much as 36 inches. Also on the table are how to balance restrictions between recreational and commercial fishermen.

On the recreational side (which is where the real improvements will be seen), I think that a slot limit should be imposed for at least the first few years of the recovery to protect the good number of very large fish that are currently at the top end of the stock. After three to five years, switching to a flat minimum of 34 inches or so should be sufficient to keep the rebuilding going. I think it should be clear that a 28-inch minimum should never return.

The ASMFC has listed three size ranges for the slot limits it is considering: 28 to 34 inches, 30 to 37 inches, and 32 to 40 inches. I wish there was a higher range, 34 to 44 inches, perhaps, that would protect younger fish for another year or two, while allowing the keeping of a fish in the size range that anglers are most likely to encounter in the next few years. Maybe a single “trophy tag” could be issued to each fisherman per year allowing them to keep one fish-of-a-lifetime each year.

A word of fair warning to spear fishermen: While I personally think a slot limit is the way to go, such an approach would be a major negative impact on your sport. Spearfishing is focused on hi-lining large fish, of course, so that attraction would be substantially muted, and a slot size range of just 10 or 12 inches of harvestable fish would no doubt be a difficult thing to gauge underwater. Perhaps it is a price that should be paid for a short period of time — but you divers will want to make your voices heard.

Recreational anglers should make it clear in their comments that there need to be restrictions placed on fishing methods that will reduce the number of “dead discards” of striped bass caught by anglers.

Please emphasize that a circle hook requirement should be adopted for the fishing of any kind of live or dead bait. Circle hooks substantially reduce the number of gut-hooked fish, which are much less likely to survive. The practice of snag-and-drop around bunker schools has to be stopped once and for all.

I would encourage anyone submitting comments to also suggest a specific limitation on the use of treble hooks that would allow no more than one treble hook to be affixed to an artificial lure, and to ban the use of gaffs in the landing of striped bass by sissies (which would be anyone who needs a gaff to land a striped bass).

We have waited at least five years too long to start trying to halt the overfishing of striped bass, so now it is time to take drastic measures.

Thanks all. Catch ’em up. See you there.

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