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Apr 30, 2019 10:34 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Bigger Bass Not Enough

Eastern Suffolk Ducks Unlimited rallied a big group of volunteers on April 6 to clean up the bay side beaches at Cow Neck, North Sea Beach, Towd Point and Scallop Pond. The crew removed 7 cubic yards of trash from the shorelines.
Apr 30, 2019 10:58 AM

To get an idea of the sort of changes to striped bass rules that we’re probably going to be in for next year—and it should be this year—a memo last week from fisheries scientists to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission estimated that a standard increase in the minimum size of a “keeper” striped bass, from 28 to 35 inches, would stand only a 50-50 chance of reducing the harvest of stripers enough to end “overfishing,” if seasons and bag limits remained constant.In the fisheries science world, that is actually not as bad as it sounds. But there is a high enough likelihood that the effort will fall short of targets to still mean that an increase to the minimum size, and only that, is probably not going to be seen as an aggressive enough approach. At least, I hope regulators will not cop out that easily.

Fisheries managers are probably unlikely to ever push the minimum size over the 36 inches it was for a couple of years in the early 1990s, so that measurement might be a reasonable estimate of where we are headed. And while a lot of anglers, myself included, are now convinced that a slot limit should be imposed on striped bass coastwide to protect the larger, more prodigious egg-laying females, fisheries managers have long shown a particular reluctance to the approach. So it seems unlikely that will be the path they take, at least at the outset.

Which means that if it is decided that just raising the minimum size all the way to 35 or 36 inches is not enough, they’ll have to be looking to tinker with seasons and bag limits.

States like New Jersey and Delaware, which have very long seasons and allow two fish to be kept—the last two Northeast states to allow an angler to take home two striped bass from one trip—should be first in the crosshairs of regulators, obviously.

New Jersey anglers are presently killing hundreds, maybe thousands, of striped bass each day that are feeding in the New York Bight as they begin their push up the Hudson River to spawn. As the big females start their surge this week, those numbers will climb with the allowance of a second fish over 43 inches to be taken.

New York anglers should be dialed back, too, during the spring runs. For many years the striper season here didn’t start until May 5, which probably lets a substantial portion of the breeding fish make for their spawning grounds before anglers set on them. With the species flagging, we should make double sure that all the fish that survived the fall harvest get at least one more spawn in before they are caught.

A May 15 season should be more than reasonable and have relatively minor economic impacts. (New Jersey gas docks and tackle shops will undoubtedly feel the sting, considering how popular the spring fishery has become up there.)

Big changes are coming, so we have to be ready to accept some sacrifice around the edges in exchange for protecting the overall fishery that gets us on the water, and on the beach, through the heart of the season.

The first keeper stripers hit South Fork beaches this week. I’d encourage anglers to impose their own 32-inch keeper minimum this season—as I will be doing. But, either way, there are fish worth getting wet for here now.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

DU Pig Roast 
In Water Mill

Eastern Suffolk Ducks Unlimited will hold its 11th annual Waterfowl Hunters pig roast and spring gathering on May 10 at the Water Mill Community Club field house in Water Mill.

Doors open at 6 p.m., and all-you-can-eat pig, barbecue and other game snacks and all-you-can-drink beer and soda will be flowing from the get-go.

This is a really fun, ultra-casual event, if you’ve never been. Lots of standing around eatin’ and drinkin’ with the good ole boys and girls, and some great raffle prizes of hunting gear, including some top-of-the-line shotguns.

Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door. Call Heather Sachtlaben to get your tickets today and make a good deal even better!

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