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Peterjay

Striper Decline

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This isn't about fly tying, but there are a lot of us here who fish for striped bass, and I thought I'd pass along these numbers from the past six seasons. It's depressing, to say the least, how mismanagement can make what was once a success story just a few years ago, turn into an unmitigated disaster. These stats shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody who fishes New England waters, especially in Maine. The state-by-state numbers come from NOAA, and cover striped bass taken by all methods. What a mess.

 

Mass. numbers

 

2006 - 8,124,766

2007 - 5,646,880

2008 - 4,027,374

2009 - 2,627,003

2010 - 2,012,483

PRELIMINARY 2011 - 1,323,156

 

RI numbers

 

Estimate Status Year Common Name Total Catch (A+B1+B2) PSE

FINAL 2006 STRIPED BASS 910,764 14.8

FINAL 2007 STRIPED BASS 779,252 13.2

FINAL 2008 STRIPED BASS 467,564 30.4

FINAL 2009 STRIPED BASS 470,113 25.7

FINAL 2010 STRIPED BASS 253,220 18.5

PRELIMINARY 2011 STRIPED BASS 157,807 22.0

 

NH numbers

 

Estimate Status Year Common Name Total Catch (A+B1+B2) PSE

FINAL 2006 STRIPED BASS 474,136 14.6

FINAL 2007 STRIPED BASS 263,720 22.4

FINAL 2008 STRIPED BASS 82,545 18.2

FINAL 2009 STRIPED BASS 66,030 19.7

FINAL 2010 STRIPED BASS 57,781 31.0

PRELIMINARY 2011 STRIPED BASS 126,126 31.2

 

Maine numbers

 

Estimate Status Year Common Name Total Catch (A+B1+B2) PSE

FINAL 2006 STRIPED BASS 4,075,656 20.7

FINAL 2007 STRIPED BASS 1,168,763 19.7

FINAL 2008 STRIPED BASS 524,155 24.4

FINAL 2009 STRIPED BASS 325,665 17.5

FINAL 2010 STRIPED BASS 211,138 16.7

PRELIMINARY 2011 STRIPED BASS 142,607 26.6

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It's easy to figure out why the decline, politics! It's not just in one state either. There's a bunch of bad things going on in VA & NC too concerning the Striped Bass, and I expect in other Atlantic states as well. We're going through some real BS here in Md over the Stripers, and the majority of it is due to politics. Recs, versus Comms, who has the right to the resource, etc, etc, etc! It all boils down to the politics involved in every aspect of management & use. Too many [email protected]#$##$ bureaucrats involved in the process who have no clue about the management of such a resource, and only concerned about the $$$$$$$. Too many hands in the till!

 

There's many problems facing the Stripers, and other species, that are contributing to the decline in their numbers, but until something is actually done, instead of all the bureaucrats bickering about it, & fighting over who gets what, they will continue to decline IMO!

 

I saw a MD license plate today on my way home from work, that was a special edition with the idea of raising money to help "Treasure The Chesapeake" which is what is says on the plate, and clean it up. They've been around for several years & there are many on local MD vehicles. Great idea, but I just had to wonder, where the money actually went! The bay is no better off & neither are the Striped bass. :angry:

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All signs point to the same type of fisheries crash that occurred in the late 70's early 80's that led to the moratorium. I fish the Hudson River in the spring and we didn't mark nearly a tenth of what we saw in years past. The Hudson is the second largest fishery for northeast stripers. While it is most certainly the commercial guys and the decline in Bunker, but i've witnessed excessive taking of big cows in some "famous" fishing spots in the Northeast! Fisherman need to not kill the old cows just to get their pic in the local B&T. Take smaller(legal) males or a cow that maybe won't survive a c&r. I have been on my soap box since '08 when I saw a sharp decline in big fish caught in LI. We'll all be C&R fishermen soon if this keeps up.

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Or you will have no choice like my family. My dad was a commercial striper fisherman in New Jersey when I was a kid. When the moratorium was passed we lost our house, cars and our way of life. We moved to Tennessee the year they began stocking striped bass in Tennessee waters. He started a guide service which I operate today and

began publishing Striper Magazine. It was tough starting over. It seems that the lesson was lost. This self fulfilling prophecy is repeating itself.

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When it comes to Striped bass, I'm primarily a C&R angler anyway. I will sometimes keep a just legal sized fish to eat. I prefer this size for eating too. I don't get to fish for the big cows very often, but would release them either way. If they made all fishing for Stripers C&R I would have no issues with it.

 

nightheron, I remember when the moratorium was put in place. For me, as a recreational angler, I simply switched my focus to other species. I'm sure many others did the same. I certainly sympathize with what such a moratorium did to commercials like your father, but fact is without it, there would likely not been many Stripers left, if any to fish for anyway, commercially or for recreation. Your father would have been out of a job one way or the other. I expect it will happen again if things keep going the way they are now.

 

I'm currently reading a book called "Chesapeake Stripers" by Keith Walters. It goes into detail about some of the things that were done leading up to that moratorium in MD, who was involved in getting it initiated, and some of the things that were done to help bring back the numbers of Striped Bass in the Chesapeake. Very interesting stuff, but I agree with you, it seems that past lessons were not really learned! As I said previous, too many hands in the till! :angry:

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Please don't misunderstand me, the moratorium was necessary and a huge success. Proof of the merits of C & R. In fact I accept blame as does my father for being instrumental in its decline back then. The limit was ten when he fished by himself, forty if my mother, my sister and I were in the boat or in the car on the beach. It was stupid abuse of a resource. It should be recognized as a gamefish and given protection in my opinion. I lose business as a striper guide every week because I operate the only C&R guide service on the lake. But the one thing I don't lose is sleep.

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It should be recognized as a gamefish and given protection in my opinion. I lose business as a striper guide every week because I operate the only C&R guide service on the lake. But the one thing I don't lose is sleep.

 

I'll certainly agree with you on the gamefish status! It should have been done long ago! I applaud your resolve to only operate as a C&R guide. Not many folks have that type of attitude towards protecting any species, especially when it has an effect on their income. Of course, that in itself should be logic enough to want to protect such a resource. A dead fish, can only be caught once! As I said, I have no issue with keeping & eating fish. I for one really do enjoy eating them, but I also understand that the resource has it's limits. Actually, I like other fish to eat better, such as White Perch, which are far more abundant, but also need some help!

 

Here in MD, I would like to see gamefish status for Stripers, a two fish per day limit on anything under 24 inches, and make it illegal to keep anything over 24 inches. The biggest problem is with folks attitudes. Too many think that the resource belongs to them, and they want their "share"! Your father may have had that type of attitude. I know there are many commercial & rec anglers who think this way. But fact is those fish belong to none of us! We are allowed to catch & use them, but when greed & money are involved, it's a different story. I would also like to see some very, very serious penalties for not obeying the laws! Serious enough to make anyone think twice about it!

 

I expect a moratorium will have to be initiated again. That's the only way to stop folks from keeping them, legally or otherwise. Here, once the moratorium was in place, it was also illegal to target Striped Bass, and the enforcement was very good & the fines steep. Unfortunately, our court system failed in many cases, as the judges did not see such crimes as serious. The general public is being made aware of the poaching that's been going on & how serious it's become. There has been a lot of negative press in the past couple of years regarding natural resource crimes, and public pressure is causing judges to start to impose harsher penalties. Too many commercial guys are being charged with multiple violations, and are being dealt with accordingly. Unfortunately, those that do obey the laws will likely lose part or all of their livelihood, but as I stated previous, if the situation with Striped bass continues, that will happen anyway. There just will not be enough, if any fish left!

 

There is also the argument that just as many recreational anglers break the laws. I don't know the stats, but it should not matter. If caught & convicted, any of them should face serious consequences IMO. :angry:

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not sure how they deal with violaters in your states but here in Michigan you get caught snagging Salmon they go rough on you including they can take your vehicle, fishing equipment, fishing and hunting privledges,plus big fines and possible jail time this also goes for hunting violaters also

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Kudos to Nightheron for operating his business on a sustainable basis. Wish there were more out there like him.

 

I agree that a moratorium is a necessary, but the only way it will work this time around is to bring back the forage, mainly menhaden. It doesn't do any good to have a bunch of stripers around if they're going to go hungry. Of course, it would mean shutting down the menhaden fishery once and for all, which would start the politicians whining about saving 250 jobs in Reedville, Virginia. (which really means that they’re perfectly happy to be in bed with Omega Protein) Funny, isn’t it, that the politicians never mention the fact that a healthy recreational fishery would generate thousands of jobs and pump millions of dollars into local economies? But of course, Omega Protein doesn’t tell them to say that.

 

Just to echo what others have said, striped bass are in dire need of gamefish status, and not just in a few states. Commercial fishing for stripers is an idea whose time has come and gone. The Free and Common Fishery belongs to all of us, not just a few exploiters who have made a conscious decision to hitch their wagon to a dying horse. (nobody can say they weren’t warned this time around) If we’ve learned one thing from this debacle, it’s that wildlife species are unable to withstand commercial exploitation in the 21st century. In 100 years, we’ve gone from a few guys in dories to fleets of powerboats equipped with the latest electronics. When all it takes to locate a school of big fish is a glance at a fishfinder, the fish don’t stand a chance. They’re all being caught and killed, legally or not. Most of us don’t need to be reminded that the commercial fishing industry has annihilated every single species it’s ever targeted, and as soon as the striper population moved into their crosshairs again, it was doomed.

 

Something has got to be done about the hodgepodge of regulations and limits. It doesn’t do any good for a migratory species to be protected in one state, only to be targeted in the next. Which means of course, that the Feds have to take action, the same way they did when waterfowl populations collapsed. (I’m not going to hold my breath on this one) When I lived in Idaho, fishermen were issued ten steelhead tags for the season. When they were used up, that was it until next year. I don’t see why a similar program wouldn't work for striped bass, especially in conjunction with a slot limit. There is absolutely no reason for anglers to kill two stripers every time they go out, and there’s no justification whatsoever for killing off the breeding stock. If ten fish per year isn’t enough, there’s plenty of farm-raised product in the grocery stores.

 

Of course, the poohbahs at the regulatory agencies continue to dismiss all notions of a collapse as “barroom biology” or mere anecdotal evidence. What these “experts” fail to mention is that they’re the same collection of jackals who sat and watched while not only stripers, but cod, haddock, pollock, whiting, redfish, winter flounder, swordfish, white marlin, sharks, weakfish, Atlantic salmon, river herring, menhaden, bluefin tuna, groupers (among others) either went down the tubes or were reduced to mere remnant populations, all the while telling us that everything was just fine.

 

The evidence is pretty clear from where I sit. The runs here in Connecticut/Rhode Island have been conspicuous by their absence, not just this year, but for several years running. Except for the occasional brief flurry, the rivers have been dead, the fall blitzes non-existent, and the average size of the fish reduced to the point where it’s embarrassing to be seen fishing for them. I haven’t seen a sizable school of menhaden in years. Of course, there are still big fish being caught, but the head-in-the-sand crowd doesn’t seem to realize that these fish were spawned back in the 1990’s, when the population was healthy, and once they’re gone, that’s it. We usually fish well into November in this neck of the woods, but just about everyone I know had given up and packed it in by early October this year. The few who stuck it out wasted their time.

 

It’s a complicated situation and there are no easy solutions, but it’s my opinion that we’re going to lose striped bass for good this time around. There are just too many people killing too many fish, and they don’t want to stop. A friend of mine wrote me a note yesterday saying that at the rate we’re going, we’re soon going to be reduced to fly fishing for bluegills. Not that it isn’t fun, but nobody wants it to be the only game in town.

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Man that sucks. Im from Texas and have heard nothing about this. I did listen to the ask about fly fishing podcast when they talked about your bunker. My dad goes up to Hingham every fall with his wife to visit her family for about a month and he fishes for striper with speckled trout and redfish lures in the weir river. (thats how u spell that?) He usually catches a couple keepers when he's there but he might only keep one each year. Funny but he noticed the bunker shortage too.

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Yeah it's a shame . I've been chasing these fish for many years and I remember when the moratorium was lifted. Guys were ALL catch and release back then . Then sometime in between then and now it went back to a kill em all mentality. I've tried getting on a soapbox before with this issue and all it got me was banned from another forum . ( the whole spotburnintube thing was actually an attempt at sarcasm - I've learned to keep my opinions to a dull roar, although I gotta say I'm not very happy about our current situation. As long as politicians are involved with any kind of natural resource that resource is going to be doomed. That being said there are still some fish around and il be out trying to catch them in the spring. It ain't what it used to be but it's all we've got so try and save a couple for my little ones ! They might want to experience one of these awesome creatures one day!

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Fishkill, your dad sure isn't imagining things - the bunker population north of the Cape is pretty much wiped out. There are still a few south of there, but very few, and they're still being slaughtered. (believe it or not, the "fisheries management" types are still claiming that bunker are not overfished) I doubt they'll be any left at all in five years. When the bass crashed in the '70's, we had bluefish to fall back on, but with the lack of bait, we're not even seeing blues in any numbers. It's gotten to the point where a dozen striper flies are more than enough to get through the season, and I wouldn't even need that many except that they eventually get banged up on the rocks. I'm very happy to be moving out of the area. Ecstatic, actually.

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Peter, I'm in full agreement with you! I mentioned previously that Stripers had many issues contributing to their current (& past) decline, and the over fishing of prey species by companies such as Omega Protein are just one example, It's a major issue, the result of the politics I mentioned. I'm sure they contribute big bucks to the election campaign's of those folks who vote favorably, for them, on issue relating to menhaden! Your move to VA will likely be better for you, compared to where you are now, and there will be more Stripers, but unfortunately who can say for how long! The fisheries management folks in the various states & NOAA seems to be turning a blind eye to what is obvious to the rest of us concerning Striped Bass. I hope we're all wrong, but it certainly doesn't appear that way to me from what I've observed & have read from other anglers! :angry:

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TWF, I hope we're all wrong too, but I'm afraid we're not. At least in VA, there are a lot more species to pursue than we have up here. In this neck of the woods, it's stripers, blues, and not a whole lot else. We've got false albacore and bonito, but the season is brief and they've been hard to come by from shore in recent years. We used to get pollock, cod, and whiting from the beaches, but they're long gone.

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