Above: An angler holds a striped bass caught on a tube-and-worm rig.
A coalition of charter fishing boat associations and recreational fishing groups has asked the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for an exemption from new regulations requiring the use of in-line circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with natural bait. Specifically, they are seeking an exemption from the requirement for the trolling of tube-and-worm rigs and leadhead jigs.
The striped bass circle hook regulation was enacted in 2021 as part of Amendment VI to the Striped Bass Management Plan, which was developed in response to a stock assessment that determined striped bass were overfished. The use of in-line circle hooks when fishing with natural bait has been shown to reduce the post-release mortality of striped bass by reducing incidences of gut-hooking. However, the tube-and-worm rig, which consists of a long latex or rubber tube with a single J-hook protruding from the end that is baited with a large seaworm and is trolled slowly behind a moving vessel, rarely results in the gut-hooking of striped bass. Furthermore, a circle hook used with trolled a tube or jig will not effectively catch fish because circle hooks are not designed for this.
In a letter addressed to Mr. David Borden, Chairman of the ASMFC Striped Bass Board, the coalition supports the circle hook requirement, but proposes “…a very specific coast-wide exemption that allows the use of the tube-and-worm rig with a J-hook when trolling and using natural bait,” and further requests “…that jigs (lead-head style, dressed with natural or synthetic hair) also be exempted from the circle hook requirement, as long as the jig has a single fixed hook protruding from the end portion where bait may be attached.”