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Sports Center

Sep 17, 2019 9:52 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Some Level Heads Amid The Shouting Over Striped Bass

Sep 17, 2019 9:52 AM

The debate over how striped bass regulations should be tailored to help the stock return has been a very interesting one, most of the time.There has been a lot of ugly us-versus-them name calling, stereotyping and ill-informed suppositions about what party boat captains think or what surfcasters think. This is useless and petty and only serves to mire the conversation in empty hyperbole.

But in between the loudest idiots hijacking the conversation, as they seem to do in every online forum now (including this one, if you are reading this on 27east.com), there has been some very well reasoned ideas on managing the stock effectively.

It’s been refreshing to see that many purely recreational anglers, surfcasters in particular, have been so vehemently in favor of nearly the most restrictive rules the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is willing to consider imposing on them. The biggest sizes, shorter seasons, limitations on the kind of gear that can be used — you name it, most anglers are willing to absorb the hit to their dinner tables to get the stock on the track to recovery. Good for them, and they should be granted all their wishes.

But I also heard some suggestions from party and charter boat captains that those same restrictions maybe should not be imposed across the board, for the sake of the stock, that are not without their merits.

I have to say, the suggestion that party and charter boats should have their own allocation allowing them to keep smaller fish to reduce the number of fish they hook in a trip before calling it quits, does have a thread of common sense running through it. It’s true that many charter boat trips would go fish for striped bass, keep the first four or six or eight fish they caught and then go fish for something else to keep filling the cooler.

Again, this would not work across the board, since, obviously, a party boat on a 5-hour night striper trip is not going to blow the horn three times after two hours just because everyone has their keeper on ice, and they can’t very well give up bassin’ and go in search of fluke and black sea bass in the middle of the night (or, maybe they can?).

And, of course, plenty of Montauk charter parties would insist that they keep fishing until they catch the trophy striper that they came to Montauk to fish for.

But perhaps there would be enough reduction in effort to warrant a lowering of the limits for charter boats.

Amid this debate, I came to the sad realization that preserving the largest striped bass to be caught again and again, to make dreams come true for angler after angler, is simply not the reality of what will happen. Sure, a big striper hooked by a surfcaster or small-boat angler who carefully revives her may live to bite and fight again another day. But most of these fish, especially when caught in the midst of the summer heat, will just not survive a release unless they are carefully and often extensively revived — which is essentially impossible from the deck of a party boat and a pretty damn rare occurrence among the busy crews of a charter boat.

In my reporting, I did hear one echo of my old friend Stu Vorpahl, who would harangue me endlessly about how the striped bass boom and wane over the decades and the slaughter that humans unleash, or restrain, makes not one bit of difference. I am almost tempted to say we should leave everything as is just to see if the recent bump in recruitment success in the last few years is the start of a new up-cycle in breeding success that would storm onward and bring a full stock recovery like we saw in the 1990s, even if nothing was changed.


It’s not worth risking the downside just to test the theory that bass go though population cycles regardless of the size of the breeding stock, as the major recruitment failures of the mid-2000s and the huge year-class successes in the late 1980s would seem to prove at least partially true.

No, I think it’s better to show some restraint. To admit that we are going to, in the very near future, be presented with a vast dearth of large striped bass, simply because we have slaughtered the great year classes from a decade ago. Up the minimum size of a “keeper” to 35 inches. Require the use of circle hooks and no more than one treble hook. If we do this, and if Stuart was right, then someday the hordes of big fish that have made being a striped bass fisherman so fun the last six or seven years will return just like the blitzes of small fish have returned today.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

Ducks Unlimited Low Country Boil

Eastern Suffolk Ducks Unlimited will hold a “Low Country Boil” this coming Sunday in Water Mill.

The all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink feast will take place at the Water Mill Community Club fieldhouse on Nowedonah Avenue from 5 to 7 p.m.

Along with the usual seafood boil feast and accompaniments like venison sliders, and all the beer and soft drinks you want, each $50 ticket will enter the holder in the drawings for five new guns and five K2 rotomolded coolers.

Only 300 tickets to the event are being sold, so waiting until the evening of the event to buy tickets at the door is not advised. You can buy tickets online at www.ducks.org/new-york/events or call Hunter Tracy at 631-871-3554.

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