ASMFC Public Hearings Scheduled - 2nd UPDATE to new striped bass maximum size cap - The ASMFC will hold webinar-style public hearings informing the public and identifying next steps for management, including steps to consider to reduce fishing mortality for the 2024 season. Public comment will be accepted at these meetings, scheduled for:

  • 5/17/23, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
  • 5/22/23, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
  • 5/23/23, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
  • 5/31/23, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

To attend one of these webinars sign up here to register. You can also call in and listen via phone by calling 914/614-3221 and entering code 424-938-669.

Maryland Regulations Announced - UPDATE to the new striped bass maximum 31-inch size limit: The Maryland DNR has announced that the 31-inch maximum size for rockfish will become effective when the spring trophy season is complete. Starting at 12:01 a.m. on May 16, any striped bass caught in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay that's over 31-inches must immediately released. The 19-inch minimum size and one fish per person per day limit remains in effect, so Marylanders will have a 19- to 31-inch one-fish slot through the season (including May 16 through July 15, and August 1 through December 10). The DNR has also announced an Atlantic coast slot limit of 28- to 31-inches (still with a one fish per person limit). The slot in Virginia waters of the Bay remains unchanged at 20 to 28 inches. 

At its meeting today the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted to take the emergency measure of capping the coastwide striped bass upper slot limits at 31 inches. The ASMFC is the interstate agency responsible for managing shared migratory fisheries, and (in case you hadn’t noticed) has been tightening down of rockfish harvest since 2020, following the declaration that they were officially overfished. Four years in a row of sub-par young-of-year surveys in the Chesapeake Bay coupled with strong fishing pressure have put the 2029 target for rebuilding the fishery in doubt, and this latest action was taken to reduce pressure on the most recently matured spawning fish from the last strong year-class.

striped bass caught in chesapeake bay
Rockfish that stretch the tape beyond 31 inches will have to be released once the emergency measures have been implemented.

The emergency action, which went into effect immediately and states “jurisdictions are required to implement compliant measures asap and no later than July 2,” lasts for six month and can be extended by the commission at the end of this period if they vote to do so. And, the vote wasn’t even close — commissioners voted 15 to 1 to initiate the emergency measure. The state of New Jersey was the sole holdout, and several attempts to alter or delay the emergency measure failed.

The Chesapeake Bay trophy fishery, already underway in Maryland waters from now through May 15, was explicitly excluded. Since the Chesapeake Bay and coastal fisheries have historically had different regulations this could prove confusing to Bay anglers once trophy season ends and the regular spring season begins. (Virginia already has a 28-inch maximum for its slot limit in the spring season, but Maryland’s portion of the Bay has never had an upper slot limit). We’re sure that the Maryland DNR will issue guidance quickly.

As soon as the DNR implements the measure harvesting fish over 31 inches will not be allowed (the measure stated “all recreational fisheries”), and we can expect that this will have several tournament committees in Maryland rewriting rules at a frantic pace. Hopefully this will speed the transition to catch-photo-release formats, which have been growing in popularity in recent years as more and more recreational anglers have begun shifting to a catch and release ethic when it comes to breeding-sized fish.