If there is one thing we have learned over the past 25 years, it’s that the striped bass is not an unlimited resource. We have had good years but we have also had some pretty lean years. Fishing authorities, including the federal and various state governments have tried to step in and regulate the resource for the good of the fishing community. Some of those actions have been good, some not so much. In the end, when it comes to the conservation of the Striped Bass, it is pretty much up to us, the anglers, to preserve this fishery.
I have been asked many times at various seminars I conduct, as well as from my guide clients, about my stance on catch and release, and my opinion on the current set of regulations in place to protect the Striped Bass Fishery. Anyone who has heard my answer knows I am a huge
proponent of catch and release, especially when it comes to large breeding fish, and initiatives to sustain this historic fishery. In saying that, I want to make it clear I also believe a person should be allowed to keep a legal fish according to the regulations.
That being said, when it comes to my advocacy, I don’t believe we are doing enough to protect the stocks of larger bass from being decimated year after year along the “Striper Coast”- from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay all the way to Maine- especially along the banks of the Cape Cod Canal where concentrations of large fish run a “gauntlet” of anglers. Between these anglers, the party boats making two trips a day, and the recreational boat anglers all of whom keep these larger breeding fish, I worry we will once again cause this fishery to collapse as it did in the 80’s.
So given that there are many people- including me- who make a living out of this business, and have customers who want to keep their fish, what should we do?
There are currently many organizations trying to protect this fish that are lobbying for more protection of the species, including initiatives to give the Striper game fish status. I support these efforts. However, I think changes have to come not only from legislation, but also from individual behaviors. No matter what laws are in place, ultimately when you bring in the fish, it is your decision to legally keep the fish or release it. In that moment, you are the regulatory authority. Each angler has the power to not only release a breeding fish but to also educate fellow anglers to refine the practice of catch and release. Releasing the large breeders helps to sustain the fishery. It’s ok to keep a fish to eat but let’s focus on releasing the large fish to preserve the future of this beautiful species.
I think the challenge has to go out to the guides, captains, and local tackle shops to assist in the education of anglers as to the importance of catch and release and its relevance to our sport in general and the striped bass in particular. We have to police ourselves when fishermen are not doing the right thing. Now, I know it’s not always the safe and smart thing to confront other anglers and accuse them of wrong doing. This can result in arguments, altercations or worse. Unfortunately, we all have witnessed this over the years. However, when you see people doing the wrong thing, call your local DEC officers and make a complaint. It is the job of these
enforcement resources, limited as they may be, to protect our fisheries. Even if they can’t respond that day, I can guarantee from my experience, that they will be there tomorrow or the next weekend looking for violators- and you know as well as I do that if a person violating the law had a good day fishing a particular spot, they will return.
In closing, here is the bottom line from Bernie Bass: We all have a stake in the future of the Striped Bass fishery- each one of us. If each of us does their part to keep just the minimum for the occasional grilling, and release the large breeders, this will go a long way towards helping to protect the Striper fishery for the future. There is no question we all enjoy fishing for striped bass and we want to continue to do it for years to come. Do the math, if we continue to extract the big breeding fish, there will be fewer fish making the spawn and ultimately that will lead to the end. So next time you bring in that 30 pounder, please consider a few nice pictures, maybe even a replica, and let it return to breed for the future. Keep Tight Lines, and Live The Passion!
iBass360.com is pleased to feature a monthly surfcasting blog from Bernie Hoyt , a NYS Certified Fishing Guide with over 30 years of experience surfcasting the legendary waters of Long Island. He is well known for his informative seminars at saltwater shows in the Northeast. Bernie offers trips along the outer beaches and inlets of Long Island, as well as Cape Cod Canal, Cuttyhunk, and other Northeast Striper locations. He is a pro-team member for S&S Bucktails, ODM RODS, and KastKing, as well as a member of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association and the Montauk Surfcasters Association. You can contact Bernie on Facebook through Bernie Bass Surfcasting Services, on Instagram @Bernie_bass and through his website at www.Berniebass.com