The past is already too late
Why would fisheries managers, who openly admit that harvesting too many spawning females caused the last decline, go out and do the same thing again, allowing anglers to take two fish a day over 28 inches?
I am not just using my fishing success to judge the health of the striper population; I’m getting information from many other anglers that fish a lot harder than I do, I believe charter captains using effective techniques like wire-line trolling or bait anglers fishing in deep water are not true indicators. In my opinion, the best barometers are the fly and surf-plug anglers. Fly fishing is the most difficult way to catch stripers, followed by surf fishing with artificials. In the last six to seven years say, anglers I know who fish using these techniques, fishing is falling off in many New England locations, and in the last three years its gotten worse. Ten years ago, locations in shallow water in late spring in Cape Cod bay would usually have hundreds of fish each day; now they have thirty to forty fish, sometimes half that. This is not based on one year but more than five years of checking these locations.
Now, if there is a small push of fish one day, the next day is often dead. In the good years when you hit fish, they were usually there for three to four days or longer. In the late 1990’s in May, the ‘bowl’ just south of Chatham Lighthouse on Cape Cod might have had a hundred anglers fishing – now its mostly empty. Guides I know that specialized in light tackle and fly-fishing for stripers have stopped doing trips or fish for other species.
There is one easy solution to this problem: Stop killing the breeders. Both recreational and commercial fishermen target larger fish because regulations require that practice. A slot limit similar to what the state of Florida has for most of its game fish would stop the killing of females. In the Northeast, only the state of Maine has a slot limit. If stripers were protected from 28 inches to 48 inches, they would have a least eight to 10 years of freedom to spawn. A one-fish-a-day, 22 to 26 inch slot limit would solve this problem, letting anglers keep a fish while saving the fishery. When it comes to fisheries management, Florida is the example we need to follow. Unfortunately, because of commercial interests a slot limit will be a tough sell. Even most six-pack captains would fight any laws that would take away from their business.
Obviously, the best solution would be to make stripers a game fish. However,I’m afraid the only way we will get game fish status is if we lose this great game fish one more time.
Lou Tabory – Fly Fishing in Saltwaters July/August 2013 – State of the Striper, what can we do to prevent history from repeating itself.