New Striped Bass Length Limit Starts Sunday
In order to stay in compliance and avoid a possible shutdown of the fishery, the New Jersey Marine Council (NJMFC) voted last week by a 5-2 count to adopt the new emergency striped bass rule of one fish at 28-31 inches mandated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
This starts July 2.
This is a reduction from the former one bass from 28 to less than 38 inches regulation that was adopted several years ago. To say that angered multitudes of trophy bass enthusiasts would be a gross understatement. However, the bitter pill was swallowed, and adjustments to attitude and pursuit made. (Some hardcore big bass enthusiasts gave up bass fishing altogether.) After all, it was about protecting the resource, even though striper populations appeared healthy as per the fantastic fishing being enjoyed up and down the Jersey coast.
However, recent studies indicate the bass mass faces a critical state of decline as per a variety of factors, most notably poor recruitment of year classes. Release mortality percentages also figure in. As such, a drastic reduction in the slot length was decided to be a major step in conserving the bass, and other states involved were quick to approve the new measure.
Comply, as the order went, or the fishery could be shut down.
From this corner, it was inevitable that the NJMFC would vote to stay in compliance, one primary reason being the all-to-real financial crush a closure of the striper fishery would cause to the fishing communities via bait and tackle shops, bait distributors, marinas, and for hire boats during the prime fall bass run. Figuring in ancillary businesses (gas stations, diners and restaurants, convenience stores, motels, etc.) and it’s a major economic hit. Lots of lives affected.
One charter captain acquaintance was exasperated, saying “We (he and other for hire captains) finally wrapped our heads around the one fish at 28 to less than 38, and worked with it. Now this. What’s next if they decide that the three inch slot isn’t working?”
A catch-and-release only fishery? In our opinion, there are certain forces who are all for that. No, not even a striper to take home to eat. How about the M word, as in moratorium, as in the Eighties? Possible? Anything is possible in this highly complicated, and some insist politically driven, saltwater recreational fishing arena.
Who knows how long this new reg will remain in effect. There is already some chatter about possible lawsuits since the sudden emergency measure procedure was kind of, well, sketchy. Fast tracked. Hmm...like the offshore wind farms.
Get the popcorn.
As the 28-31 gap is skinny window for possession, take heart: New Jersey’s Striped Bass Bonus Tag program is not affected. With a tag you can catch and keep one bass between 24 inches and less than 28 inches. Better odds for a striper dinner. Applications and all pertinent information, including the log sheet, are available at www.njfishandwildlife.com.