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Nov 03 2008

Georgraphical Striped Bass Abundance Does Not Equate to a Healthy Stock

Published by at 1:12 pm under Fisheries Conservation Talk,Striped Bass

bass eating baitLarge concentrations of bass in some areas doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthy stock

Man, there were some crazy striped bass blitzes in Montauk this year.  The kind that make you just drop your rod and say “Holy *@$%!”.  Truly extraordinary stuff.  Understandably, such blitzes might make one believe that striped bass are extremely abundant.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  In other regions, particularly the Northeast, there are widespread complaints about the lack of quality stripers.  In Maine, guides are going out of business because of the very real lack of what was once a thriving fishery.
As guides like Capt. Dave Pecci and Capt. Doug Jowett point out, it’s not due to the lack of forage as there seems to be abundant bait concentrations in the areas that they fish.  Indeed I fear that Maine’s position at the northernmost part of the striped bass migration makes it a bellwether state.

In light of such Montauk blitzes, I ask you to consider the below passage taken from a University of New Hampshire Department of Natural Resources document titled   A Guide to Fisheries Stock Assessment.  This is the document used to educate members of the fisheries management councils on how fisheries stock assessments are conducted:

“Fishermen will actively seek out areas with greater fish concentrations. As a result, their catch-per-unit effort could remain stable in the face of a declining stock. Consider a stock that contracts its range as the population shrinks, or increases its range as the population grows. Despite the changing range, catch-per-unit effort may remain relatively constant if the fishermen focus their effort on the center of the range, where fish density remains relatively stable.”

With this in mind, I would think managers would be practicing extreme caution when managing striped bass, particularly in light of its immense recreational value.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.   Delaware and Pennsylvania want open two-month fishing seasons targeting mature male
striped bass.  Maryland has proposed to extend non-quota management for its trophy fishery in 2009 and until stock assessment indicates that corrective action is necessary, and Virginia wants to extend its season.   All of these measure will increase fishing mortality on striped bass.  In my opinion they are reckless, and they show no respect for the views of those hardworking Maine guides that are being forced out of business.  Undoubtedly, there seems to be a trend toward killing more bass rather than a move in the other direction.

That’s understandable given the recent stock assessment and the states’ understanding that their anglers want to kill more bass.  But I think there’s a large majority of folks that would rather proceed down a precautionary road.  Once which insures that we have plenty of big fish around in the future.  It’s up to these anglers to let their state reps know their wishes.  It seems as if the kill-more-fish-now folks are the only ones being listened to at this point, and that has to stop.

Captain John McMurray

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