During the COVID-19 response, New Jersey Conservation Police continue working to protect New Jersey’s wildlife resources. This is evident from a March 30th case in Atlantic City involving the early morning apprehension of two men in possession of 66 undersize Atlantic striped bass.
The accused were caught by NJ Conservation Police Officers after they returned to a private dock after fishing all night from a small vessel. Earlier in the evening, they drew attention to themselves when officers observed them running their vessel at high rates of speed from various fishing locations under the cover of darkness and fog without any navigation lights. Despite the conditions, and losing sight of the vessel on multiple occasions, officers utilized their intimate knowledge of the area to relocate and ultimately inspect the vessel. The Atlantic striped bass retention limits on March 30th were one fish from 28” to less than 43” and one fish 43” or greater per person. When inspected, sixty-six striped bass were found between 13” and 24” in length.
Charges for undersize and over the limit violations were written, which carry a penalty of $100 per fish/per violation, adding up to a potential of $12,800 in penalties for each angler. Additionally, the men were charged with unsafe operation of a vessel, operating a power vessel without valid registration, and failing to have appropriate vessel safety gear. Fishing gear was also seized for evidence and the Conservation Police Officers will seek forfeiture due to the severity of the violations. The seized fish were released to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.
Due to recent stock assessment results that determined overfishing for Atlantic striped bass was occurring, mandatory coastwide reductions were put in place to end overfishing and reduce fishing mortality in 2020. Regulation changes effective April 1st aim to achieve an 18% harvest reduction. The current recreational limit is one fish per day, which must measure from 28” to less than 38” in total length. There is no commercial harvest or sale of Atlantic striped bass in New Jersey.