Click here to see the author’s first column on this topic.
The ink wasn’t dry on a story I wrote recently, a piece I called a success story due to the fact that various actions brought back a severely crippled Atlantic striped bass fishery, when my email lit up with suggestions that I ought to try catching one because the fishing stinks, which makes it poor fodder for a success story.
That, along with other less family-friendly suggestions.
I’ve fished for and caught Atlantic striped bass, talked to charter operators and recreational fishermen who find the striper action excellent and I’ve read some very recent validated reports about the popular striped bass fishery.
But apparently I should have sought the comment of some knowledgeable-sounding gents from Maine who are obviously in on the trends of the fishery, trends that look more like an impending storm than a sunny forecast, according to them.
According to Brad Burns, the president of an organization that’s all about striped bass, the last decent hatch of these great sport fish was back in 2003. Burns’ group, “Stripers Forever,” has the ring of a group that lives, breaths and sleeps striped bass, so they have an opinion that should hold water.
Kind of like “Pheasants Forever” without feathers. Burn’s offers that the catch by recreational anglers has dropped steadily over the past six seasons, a downward spiral amounting to a 70 percent drop in fishing success. He’s from Maine but I believe his statistics reflect multi-state data, not that from his home state.
And I admit I often find information coming from the mouths of sportsmen to be more factual than that from some other sources. I did pull up information published by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which tells a more hopeful story.
That agency claims that it isn’t as bad as some might think.
They say that the number of striped bass overall has been mostly stable over the years, thanks to the great spawn of 2003, with those mature fish providing the lion’s share of spawn. However, they do suggest that the Chesapeake Bay is failing rapidly as a major player in the production of striped bass.
And the ASMFC does indicate that the numbers of striped bass does fluctuate but overall the fishery is in fair shape and within their long term management goals.
According to Burns, the agency does, however, propose that the fishing pressure, both sport and commercial, be limited to just 50 percent of the present harvest.
That in itself, if true, would indicate that the ASMFC recognizes a downward trend that needs attention. Less fish taken from the pool plus another great spawn ought to put smiles on the faces of sportsmen who want the striped bass fishery to reclaim its fame and following.
Lake Erie walleye fishermen suffer the same kind of questionable outlook.
It was in 2003 that a super walleye spawn restored a failing Erie walleye fishery, or at least kept it afloat. But spring hatches since then have been miserable, not much better, or just OK and thus the number of catchable walleyes keeps dropping.
In fact, if it goes any lower, the daily limit will be cut again.
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