On May 2, 2023, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board, voted to take emergency action to implement a 1 fish at 28″ to less than 31″ size slot limit for all ocean recreational striped bass fisheries coastwide. This ruling applies to fishermen from North Carolina to Maine who are recreationally targeting striped bass in the Atlantic Ocean. The reason for the slot limit is to protect the larger spawning females left in the population.
Recreational fishing is responsible for 90% of the fishing mortality on striped bass on the Atlantic Coast. Commercial fishing accounts for only 10% of the rockfish mortality on the Atlantic Coast. Roughly half of the recreational fishing mortality comes from what we call “release mortality”. That is the number of fish that die after being released by recreational fishermen. Amazingly, it EQUALS the number of rockfish killed as part of a fisherman’s recreational limit!
The big question now is whether they are going to institute a similar regulation for commercial fishermen. A 31-inch fish is roughly 10-12 pounds. That would yield about a 2-pound fillet maximum. Most of the fish we sell this time of year are larger than that. Generally speaking, the rockfish population is not doing well. Since 2018, young-of-the-year reproduction in the Chesapeake Bay has been extremely poor. This means we are catching the same adult fish year after year. That is why the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council instituted this emergency regulation.