Thursday, December 7, 2023

Two Views on Striped Bass

 First, from Southern Maryland Chronic, Stripers Thriving in Bay and Rivers, Season Ends Soon

Anglers in the bay and rivers are experiencing a bustling season with stripers (rockfish), evident from recent catches and reports. The activity is particularly notable for those employing trolling and jigging techniques.

Ryan Galligan, a local angler, encountered a pleasant surprise during a recent fishing expedition off Cove Point. While targeting rockfish by tracking bait schools with his depthfinder and observing bird movements, Galligan unexpectedly reeled in a hefty seven-pound speckled trout. This catch, along with a few sizable rockfish, made a significant addition to his icebox. The day also saw a fair number of catch-and-release fish.

However, the fishing reports from the area present a varied picture. Skilled trollers are finding success in the bay by closely following bird activity and utilizing sonar to locate bait and fish. This approach seems to be effective for most anglers, allowing them to reach their limits in both the bay and rivers. The ease of fishing fluctuates day-to-day; on some occasions, fish are abundantly active, requiring only the casting of a lure to ensure a catch.

However, the Baltimore Fishbowl reports Maryland DNR announces emergency measures to boost striped bass population in Chesapeake Bay

Anglers have new regulations to contend with when it comes to fishing for striped bass, Maryland’s official state fish. Last week, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced new striped bass emergency regulations to help the struggling species bolster its population.

Striped bass support important commercial and recreational fisheries in Maryland. There are recent indications, however, that the species’ population is in trouble.
“This year’s juvenile index was the second lowest on record since 1957. The numbers of spawning fish have been below sustainable levels for several years and are currently under a rebuilding plan at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC),” read the press release announcing the new regulations. The DNR’s proposals would take effect before this year’s recreational fishing season, if adopted. The actions would close Maryland’s trophy striped bass fishery and extend spring closures whose purpose is to protect returning fish migrating up the Bay to spawning grounds.

“The emergency regulations propose to extend two periods already closed to targeting striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay and on the Susquehanna Flats next year. These extensions would result in the elimination of the Maryland Striped Bass Trophy season (May 1 to May 15) and the catch-and-keep fishery on the Flats (May 16 to May 31) in 2024,” according to the DNR website.

According to the DNR’s yearly survey that tracks the reproductive success of Maryland’s state fish in the Bay, the 2023 young-of-fish index is 1.0, which is “well below the long-term average of 11.1.” This drop is attributed to warmer temperatures and dryer conditions in the past several years, which have not been conducive to successful migration and spawning.

Both are true. This time of year, the rockfish, aka Striped Bass leave the upper areas of the tributaries, and form large schools, gorging on the bait, mostly Menhaden, that are also leaving the tributaries and migrating down bay and out to sea. It's fairly easy to find fish, especially south of here in deeper water. Even without a sonar, birds will often point the way. If you see a big flock of big seagull and gannets hitting the water, it means striped bass underneath are pushing the bait up the surface.

At the same time, overall populations of the Stripped Bass are declining, so the size and number of such schools are getting smaller every year.

The Wombat has Rule 5 Sunday: For The Fallen up and awaiting your digital pleasure at The Other McCain. 

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