Striped Bass Stock Update

The latest striped bass stock assessment gives reason for anglers to be (cautiously) optimistic.

For years, there has been fear and anxiety spreading about the status of the Atlantic striped bass resource, fueled by the continuous decline in the striped bass population since the early 2000s and most recently by below-average recruitment (spawning success) in Maryland portions of Chesapeake Bay. Since 2018, when striped bass were declared overfished, the recreational fishing community has rallied to push for conservation to rebuild the striped bass fishery, culminating with the finalization of Amendment 7 to the fishery management plan earlier in 2022. It has been a bumpy journey, and we still have a long way to go, but for now, I have positive news to share. 

The final draft of the 2022 Atlantic Striped Bass Stock Assessment found that the striped bass population is not experiencing overfishing, meaning fishing mortality is where it needs to be to rebuild successfully. In other words, the new slot limit regulations are succeeding at reducing the impact of recreational fishing on the struggling striper population.  

The results indicate that if managers can keep fishing mortality where it is now, there is a high probability of rebuilding the overfished striped bass stock by 2029. Does that mean it will be smooth sailing and we’ll have the same striped bass regulations the entire time? Likely not, as managers will need to review updated stock assessments to ensure the current slot limit is keeping fishing mortality at or below where it needs to be. If it isn’t, they will consider further adjustments as required by the management triggers reaffirmed in the fishery management plan through Amendment 7. The next striped bass stock assessment is currently scheduled for 2024.  

Although a finding of no overfishing is great news, it’s important to note the 2022 stock assessment results are based on assumptions made by a team of technical experts charged with providing the best scientific information available for management. Because of inherent uncertainty in estimating fish  populations, they test different scenarios to check the robustness of the results. This assessment was no different, especially considering data challenges linked to COVID. A significant aspect adding confidence to the results is the use of a conservative assumption of low recruitment (juvenile striped bass) in future years. This means the rebuilding challenges associated with continued poor spawning are accounted for in the projections. Rebuilding uncertainty is still high because it relies on long-term projections, but taken in totality, the results represent the best scientific understanding of the population and its trajectory. If you’re feeling cautiously optimistic, you’re right where I am. 

If you’re wondering what you can do to help bolster rebuilding the striped bass population, I suggest focusing on implementing best fish-handling practices. The 2022 assessment still indicates that approximately half of the total striped bass removed from the population comes from catch-and-release mortality. Following best fish-handling practices can increase the survival of released fish. Know them before you go and teach others along the way. But, most of all, get out and enjoy some fall striped bass fishing as we breathe a temporary sigh of relief that we’re headed in the right direction to rebuild this iconic fishery.  

For more information about this and other policy issues, visit www.KeepAmericaFishing.org. 

Mike Waine is the American Sportfishing Association’s Atlantic Fisheries Policy Director

29 on “Striped Bass Stock Update

  1. John

    What about controlling the over population of seals hanging out on Cape Cod decimating the striper population as they migrate by…. doing the math ..estimated seal population from researchers in 2017…. 50,000 x about 5 lbs of fish per seal per day (Conservative)….that is 250,000 lbs per day/ 1.7 million pounds per week…. over the course of a summer??? Completely eliminating sport fishing will not compensate for this…..

    1. Greg

      Wow, math! Seriously, is there any study that backs your numbers up?

      1. John

        Greg….yes there are studies that back this up….. spend some time and look it up. …. seals are an inconvenient truth of nature (preditor/prey relationship) being out of balance and this imbalance impacts other areas of the environment.(prey population densities) … sorry if the math is difficult for you as it appears reality is as well….

    2. HobokenJoe

      The seals have totally destroyed the fishing and fishery in Nantucket and no one seems to care !!

    3. Wolfofrhodeisland

      You think the population boom of seals are surviving off sea weed??? There decimating the bass too

    4. Rusty

      Seals likely take less than 1/500 the number of stripers as do people. Despite the boom in gray seal populations on Cape Cod, the number of seals is miniscule compared to the number of fishing people up and down the coast. Their impact is 1) minimal, and 2) natural – even if they were taking huge numbers, it’s us that need to limit – not them…

      1. John

        Rusty…don’t know how much time you have spent on the water…but I have watched seals catching striped bass…if they can catch cod 200 feet down…which were see tuna fishing all the time…they can catch striped bass…. your ASSumptions (minimal-Natural). are not backed up with science…. since seals eat fish every day …all day while the vast majority of people don’t….. The seal population needs to controlled and while it is not popular among the environmentally sheltered…it is a fact …..

    5. Rusty

      Furthermore, I just looked up some research on gray seal diets. Striped bass make up a miniscule portion of their diet. Their preferred prey is sand eel. Flounder and cod also make up a significant portion of the seal diet.

      1. John

        ….Rusty… I get it now…the seal sees a striped bass swimming within a couple of yards of the beach and says….now way I will eat that….I am going to swim far out to see and catch cod in 200 feet of water….. makes sense to me…

  2. Jt

    Forget the seals man we have bunch of puppets in charge of the fishery being controlled by special interests groups. What a bunch of spineless **** in charge. 4 straight years of way below spawning numbers…how the hell will the stock recover when the stock is being pressured the way it’s .

    1. John

      Daniel McKiernan is the biggest scumbag piece of garbage in this industry

  3. Jt

    Massachusetts where I live may be the worst. How is it possible that the regulations are working when rec guys are allowed to keep “slot fish”. Commercial guys are allowed to keep overslot fish and there is four years straight of low below spawning numbers. How is the stock gonna rebuild thru immaculate conception!

  4. Tim

    This is not only overly optimistic but sends a dangerous message. People are screaming the fishing is great because there are so many slot/ keeper size fish (2015 spawning class) and 20 lb fish (2011 class). However there doesn’t seem to be many schoolies behind them which aligns with the data. I am out there 3-4 nights a week, every week. Gone are the nights of 20, 30, 40+ schoolies blitzing during the runs. This is not good it means there are no young fish to rebuild the stock.

    Thousands of others who publicly commented on Amendment 7 agreed. I hope I am wrong maybe my spots have dried up but everyone I talk to who is out there grinding every night seems to be reporting the same thing. There have been some positive changes but I personally would like to see more as I fear what has been done may be too little too late as Mother Nature doesn’t seem to want to cooperate as well.

  5. Bob M

    I used to be a commercial fisherman that targeted Striped Bass up in Massachusetts. I commercial fished to make a few extra bucks but in the end I barely broke even with living expenses, kids, etc. Wish I hadn’t, but we live and learn.

    I can assure you that there are big schools of Stripers way out past the three mile line we never see inshore but nonetheless, a fleet of commercial fisherman put a big dent into bass that are inshore, as witnessed off Plymouth this year. Im glad I stopped commercial fishing as it was a cheap, greedy way to make a few extra bucks while decimating a local striper school. As a former commercial fisherman, I think the next step in the right direction will have to be ending commercial fishing for Striped Bass. If the state really cared for these fish, their wouldn’t be any commercial fishing for bass, plain and simple, but a few people at the top are lining their pockets and thus why its still open. We talk about saving the stocks and yes, I agree the C&R accounts for a portion of dead bass as well, not denying that. But one thing is for sure, no bass 35” + bass from commercial lines makes it out alive. Case in point, I think to ensure greater success in rebuilding the stock, harvesting fish needs to be eliminated completely commercial or recreational. C&R is the best we can do while taking care of the fish and still enjoying the sport and keeping the economy for fishing robust. Just my 2 cents…

    – Cape Cod Bob – Chatam

    1. Toby Anderson

      You are completely right commercial fishing has ruined the big fish population again after all the money and regulations setup years ago to get it back. Nets kill every thing big stripers and small I just can’t believe they would allow this to happen again.

  6. John

    Half comes from catch and release mortality? You lobbied fishery managers think that a plug in the mouth and quick release is killing these fish and the 700000 pounds of commercial harvest are doing less damage? The ASMFC is pathetic. Time for the NOAA to take over the striped bass management and make you worthless losers jobless.

    1. Bad NewS

      Ya. Pay attention. How many more rec anglers are there? How many days can they fish? How many can they keep a day? (charters). There is a quota for commercial fishing which when it is done it is done. More fish have been killed in the last month by catch in release then all commercial season.

  7. John

    Daniel McKiernan is the biggest scumbag piece of garbage in this industry

  8. Tim

    Lets be very f’ing clear right now. The striped bass fishery is beyond screwed.

  9. Tim

    Let’s also be clear about another thing, imagine being a man so pathetic that all you could figure out how to do in life is using radar systems that another competent man had to create for you to find striped bass, and throw an eel that God created for you right in front of that striped basses face to entice it to hit. You are that pathetic that in the 21st century America that’s all you could figure out how to do in life is murder striped Bass with your technology systems. Absolutely pathetic

    1. John

      Tim, Imagine being so pathetic that you live in your parents basement and have never provided for yourself…..let alone made your way into nature and caught a fish to feed yourself. Fish as you don’t know are one of the earth’s most precious renewable resource…. properly managed, they provide an environmentally sustainable resource and source of protein….far less destructive to the environment than tofu or that “beyond meat” garbage. Tim, be a man…step outside the basement and protection of your parents….catch a fish …be part of the earth…..

  10. John

    I don’t wanna hear another anecdotal stock assessment from you commercial fishery lobbied knuckleheads the fishery is terrible and that’s final

  11. ANGELO

    Wow, sounds like you guys have the same complaints we have here in Florida when it comes to Red Snapper fishing. Commercial guys are buying up all the catch and we get 1 fish in a 3 day season.

  12. Andy

    How can OTW print such garbage and continue with the fake news that the fishery is going to rebound? Shame on OTW, time to cancel my subcription!

  13. Lou

    A moratorium on catching bunker would go a long way to helping striped bass and bluefish population more than reducing fishermen catch

  14. Noah

    We keep waiting for another super spawn while killing fish. How stupid. Buy out the commercials and make it a gamefish.

  15. Jt

    A moritirium on keeping any striper of any size is what needs to be done period for as long as it takes Commercial or Recreational. I’ve heard from many commercial guys saying that margins are not that great barely worth the work. So why not put a moritirium for a year or 2. Seals are not the problem even though I hate them the root of the problems starts with us. OTW you guys are an embarrassment what a horrible take. How does this math add up?

  16. Bad News

    Imagine being so pathetic you stand on the beach and throwing plastics crying about commercial bass. duhhhh. God is not real moron. This is about science

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