Two big news items broke in the last 24 hours: first, circle hook regulations for Maryland anglers targeting striped bass when they chum and/or fish bait are likely coming soon. Second, the commonwealth of Virginia has decided to withdraw their appeal to the menhaden cap in the Chesapeake Bay.
The state of Maryland doesn’t create striped bass regulations in a vacuum, and has to work within the confines of the ASMFC (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Committee) before nailing down the rules and regs. One that was floated earlier this year was the possibility of mandating the use of circle hooks to reduce mortality (as well as knocking five days off the season and ending it December 15), thereby allowing a reduction in minimum size during the summer season to 19 inches. After the large number of fish floating belly-up due to chummers in the Upper Bay last summer, most people agreed something had to be done to reduce mortality. Note: those of you who used treble hooks while chumming can stop your complaining right now – we’d bet money that a huge proportion of those floaters were killed thanks to those triple-hook wonders.
The state decided to pitch mandated circle hook use to the ASMFC, and the ASMFC just approved the move. This is stage one; now, the state will have to draw up the exact regulations and details. Most importantly, we hope these rules will clearly define what a circle hook is, and that it must be non-offset. Offset circles completely defeat the purpose of these hooks, and lead to plenty of gut-hooking. Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation/misunderstanding of the difference; there's a good article by Shawn Kimbro describing the differences between these different types of circle hooks on the Chesapeake Light Tackle web site. Stay tuned for more info about the regs, and meanwhile, check out the Dos and Don'ts of Catch and Release Fishing, for a refresher on how to best handle the fish you're putting back over the side.
And then, in Virginia… State Director John M.R. Bull sent a letter notifying Robert Beal, Executive Director of the ASMFC, that they were withdrawing the appeal the filed in December regarding the menhaden harvest cap in the Chesapeake Bay. The letter was sent and made public yesterday (the 7th), without any explanation as to why the state pulled their appeal. While we don’t know why they did it, we applaud the decision... we just hope and expect that they stay in compliance with the regulations.