Starting in 2015, striped bass fisherman on the east coast will see their bag limit cut.
While anglers who’ve experienced stellar catches of large bass on the occasional charter trip might find it hard to believe, stripers are in trouble, and the overall recreational catch along most of the coast has been declining for years. Since the striped bass stock was deemed recovered in 1995 (from near extinction in the 1980s), the fish have suffered a series of body blows including overfishing, poor spawning success (especially in Chesapeake Bay, traceable from at least 2006), and deteriorating habitat leading to disease.
Though astute anglers were sounding the alarm for years, their front-line cries were continually chalked up as “anecdotal evidence” not confirmable by the science of the day. That all changed with the last official stock assessment of 2013, which clearly showed that overfishing had been occurring for at least six of the past nine years. Still, it took thousands of striped bass anglers and recreational fishing organizations—national and regional—to get the attention of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the federal group charged with striper management.
The result was a series of September public meetings held by the ASMFC from Maine to North Carolina. At each meeting it was sharply evident that most anglers and guides supported a reduction in overall striper mortality. On October 29, the decisive reduction hearing and vote by ASMFC’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board was held in Mystic, Connecticut. As that hearing progressed, hard-core fishermen in attendance (myself included) quickly realized that a clear-cut win for the fish was far from given. The gears of political maneuvering ground unevenly and long into the evening, choked periodically by the sand of special interests.