Editor’s Note: The new 31-inch maximum size limit for striped bass will take effect by July 2. The action will not change limits during Maryland’s 2023 spring trophy season for striped bass. This is due to challenges in immediately implementing a new limit for a season already underway.
Recreational fishing pressure on striped bass increased in 2022 along the Atlantic Coast even as the population is struggling to recover from a dramatic decline, according to the latest update from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Increased fishing effort significantly decreased the probability of striped bass numbers reaching the target for a healthy population by the 2029 rebuilding deadline.
In response, ASMFC today took two actions that seek to reduce fishing effort and get striped bass rebuilding back on track. First, the ASMFC Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board voted unanimously to initiate a new Addendum intended to reduce mortality in both the recreational and commercial fisheries by considering changes to recreational size limits, season closures, and maximum size limits. The ASMFC is expected to take up the addendum later this year.
In the second action, the Board voted to implement an emergency action to decrease the maximum size limit for most striped bass fisheries to 31 inches for the next 180 days. After 180 days, the Board will have the option to end or extend the emergency action.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) supports these actions by ASMFC to ensure the comeback of this iconic fishery.
Due to a significant decline in adult female striped bass numbers, an indicator of the overall health of the population, the ASMFC sought to reduce the striped bass mortality along the Atlantic Coast by 18 percent beginning in the 2020 fishing season. Despite this action, the ASMFC technical report presented today showed increased recreational fishing pressure on striped bass up and down the Atlantic Coast.
This action comes after last year’s annual survey of the juvenile striped bass population in the Chesapeake Bay showed below average numbers in Maryland for the fourth consecutive year and average numbers in Virginia.
CBF Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist Chris Moore issued the following statement.
“Recreational fishing pressure on striped bass is increasing just as the population is struggling to recover. Fish that are caught and released can die, especially if released in the summer when water temperatures are high and oxygen levels are low.
“The ASMFC’s actions come after four consecutive years of poor spawning for striped bass. Based on this year’s warm, dry spring, we are on track for similar results in 2023. Invasive species proliferating in the Bay watershed, including blue catfish and Northern snakeheads, add to the challenge by preying on young striped bass.
“Given the increased fishing pressure and sluggish recovery of the striped bass population, CBF supports the immediate and mid-term actions ASMFC is taking to reduce striped bass mortality and get rebuilding back on track.”