Striper anglers could see more restrictions on keepers

By Julie Harris, Bangor Daily News Staff

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will decide at its January meeting whether to enact new restrictions on the recreational striped bass fishery.

Size limit is the only change being considered for Maine, according to Megan Ware, director of external affairs at the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

The problem being considered by the commission is that overfishing could endanger the stability of the striped bass population and thwart the commission’s 2029 goals for rebuilding the number of stripers.

“One of our biggest challenges is that we have had several years of poor recruitment (survival) in the Chesapeake Bay, meaning that there are not a lot of ‘baby’ striped bass entering the system,” Ware said.

The commission, which regulates striper fishing from Maine to North Carolina, decided in 2019 that striped bass were being overfished. In 2022, there was a one-fish bag limit and the legal length to keep it ranged from 28 inches to less than 35 inches. 

The number of fish that died either by being caught or after being released in 2022 was up 32 percent from the year before, primarily due to recreational fishing, the commission said in its annual summary. Commercial fishing, which made up only about 10 percent of the take, decreased slightly.

The commercial fishery is regulated by quotas, and the recreational fishery by bag limits, size restrictions and closed seasons.

In May 2023, the board reduced the fish length to 28-31 inches in an emergency measure to try to reduce the number of stripers recreational fishermen were taking.

Now the board may look at narrowing the window even more in the Maine fishery to allow the stripers to rebound.

The change could hurt charter boats and others specializing in recreational fishing for stripers, but stricter regulations likely will be temporary and will benefit those businesses in the long run if the striper population is more sustainable, the commission said in its proposal.

Commercial fishing could be affected too if the board decreases the quota. Fewer fish means striper prices could be higher for consumers too.

The next striped bass stock assessment will occur in 2024, Ware said. Regulations could be readjusted after that assessment.

Any immediate changes for striped bass management will be decided at the commission’s Striped Bass Board meeting on Jan. 24. The discussion and decision on stripers is scheduled for 1:45-4:45 p.m.

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