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Aug 20, 2019 11:40 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Striped Bass Management Hearings Set

Aug 21, 2019 6:18 PM

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has announced the dates of the public comment sessions on the new striped bass management plan proposals.

There will be just one public comment session on Long Island: on September 4, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Marine Resources offices in East Setauket.

The offices are at 205 North Belle Meade Road, Suite 1. Contact John Maniscalco at 631-444-0430 for more information.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The fisheries managers who will be tasked with “fixing” the striped bass over-fishing problem on the East Coast have released the starting points they are working with in trying to figure out how to significantly reduce striped bass mortality in the coming years to allow the population to begin rebuilding.

The process is starting from the estimation that an approximately 18 percent reduction in overall mortality of striped bass is needed to get the growth of the stock on track.

The scientists who cook up the formulas for estimating how fish mortality runs in concert with various management options are still considering either a slot limit, with a number of ranges, or a flat minimum size of either 35 inches or 36 inches.

Whether to employ the slot or just a flat minimum, will be a key decision.

The flat 36-inch minimum is what was employed to dig striped bass out of the hole they were in during the 1980s and 1990s. It would certainly work, but would also mean the high mortality on the dwindling stock of very large fish now would continue. Scientists tend to like this approach because it is simple to enforce and has a consistent impact on the spawning stock: millions more fish get to spawn several times before they are likely to be killed.

There are two wrinkles in that, however, that I see meaning a slot limit makes more sense, at least for a few years. One is the high number of bass that are caught and released by recreational fishermen but still die, a problem that knows no size limits. Second, it seems there is enough evidence that the spawning fecundity of larger striped bass is great enough that they should be afforded better protection, at least for a recovery period.

I would like to see a slot limit somewhere on the high side of the range — perhaps a 34-inch minimum and 44 inch maximum — for the next three to five years, to protect some of the large fish we have in the stock right now, as well as to allow smaller fish just reaching sexual maturity to spawn at least two or three times before being exposed to harvest. This would both boost the spawning power of the sexually mature fish we have and also keep the fishery more interesting, since other than the bodies of fish that are now 30 pounds and better, there are relatively few striped bass other than schoolies these days.

This is a topic that will be focus of much heated debate for the next several months, you can be sure.

When it comes to the commercial fishing quota for stripers, there fisheries managers are considering two options: make everyone take the same 18-percent cut to their take, or cut 18 percent in total, with recreational and commercial sectors cut in accordance with their relative percentage of harvest, which would mean just a 2-percent cut of the commercial harvest and a 20- to 22-percent cut for recreational fishermen.

Obviously, the latter would be the preference of commercial fishermen. I would argue that commercial fishing for striped bass has such a small, though complicated, role in striped bass mortality and a substantial role in the financial comfort of commercial fishermen, that it should not be reduced as much. Again, a topic open to debate.

Bass fishing has been decent in Montauk lately, with surges of big fish, followed by quiet stretches. Fluking continues to be red hot off Montauk with a lot of big doormats hitting decks these days. Shinnecock has had a tough August, I’ll leave it at that.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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