Striper Conservation

My name is Ian Rubin and I am an active member of the Chesapeake Bay fishing community as well as the owner of LipRipperZBaits, I hand airbrush a variety of lures specifically for striped bass and largemouth bass.

The Need For More Striped Bass Regulations.

The Chesapeake bay covers 4,480 square miles, has a shoreline of 11,684 miles, and holds more than 15 trillion gallons of brackish water. This enormous ecosystem is the largest, most productive estuary in the United States, providing habitat for some 2,700 species of plants and animals. Unfortunately, the Chesapeake bay ecosystem is declining and there is a steady decline in striped bass populations. The main reasons for the decline are fish oil plants, insufficient regulations on recreational fishing, and commercial overfishing. Consequently stricter regulations need to be put into place to combat the decline of striped bass.

Have you ever wondered what goes into that fish oil pill you take daily? Well you guessed it fish oil! But where does that fish oil come from? Menhaden, a small baitfish that calls the Chesapeake bay home. 170,000 TONS of menhaden are harvested every year for fish oil, pet food, and fishing bait. These baitfish play a key role in the ecosystem and since they are at the bottom of the food chain they sustain a variety of predators, including striped bass. The problem is the politics behind companies like Omega Protein. For instance, “Due to Omega Protein’s excess harvest during the 2019 fishing season, the level for 2020 was further lowered to 36,192 metric tons.” Although the 2020 harvest cap was lowered that does not mean we can let our guard down and we must keep an eye on menhaden numbers and overall health due to the important role they play in the ecosystem.

The largest threat to the striped bass population is overfishing, Both commercially and recreationally, as well as improper handling techniques. A large recent regulation that has been put into place is the ban on offset circle hooks and J hooks for recreational anglers targeting striped bass. The Maryland DNR site lists the specifics, “You must use a non-offset circle hook year-round if you are: Live-lining; Chumming; or Using bait while targeting striped bass. The proposed action also modifies the time period during May and December that an angler is required to use a circle hook or “J” hook when using bait. This action expands the time period to May 1 through December 31.” This is a big step in the right direction because offset circle hooks and J hooks often end up being swallowed too deep which usually results in death. According to the American Saltwater Guides Association “The leading cause of mortality in catch and release fishing for striped bass is physical injury from deep hooking. These studies have documented that striped bass deep-hooked with J-style bait hooks will die approximately 50% of the time regardless of any other factor. Results from DNR Catch-and-Release Studies.” Additionally many anglers have switched to using single inline hooks on lures in place of treble hooks which can cause additional damage to the fish. Although I do not believe this needs to become a regulation I believe that the local fishing community should continue to promote this awesome effort. I feel very strongly about this and I have implemented this at my custom lure business which I sell in 2 tackle stores, multiple online retailers, and through social media. I am in the process of switching the hooks on the striped bass lures I sell which I believe will encourage the use of single inline hooks. I hope that others will follow along in my footsteps.

On average, 9% of released fish die. We must work to lower this number by promoting proper handling of striped bass. On hot summer days fish die much quicker so try and keep the fish in the water while unhooking if possible, take a quick picture, and make sure to revive your catch! If you feel the need to measure your catch, use a tape measure and never weigh a fish by the mouth! Always weigh the net and then once the fish has been released weigh the net so you can subtract the weight of the net from the original weight.

Another aspect that I believe is crucial to talk about is the recreational limit. This year in Maryland waters it is prohibited “To fish for striped bass by any means or practice catch-and-release of striped bass in designated spawning areas from March 1–May 31.” This regulation is very key to protecting striped bass while they breed and produce future generations. This is just one step in the right direction for conservation. Just because you can do something does not mean you should. Many light tackle guides have been enforcing catch and release only on their boats which is a great sign and hopefully other guides follow along. Many may argue that this is detrimental to the charter industry, but in reality by putting these measures in place now it will allow for these captains to target them for years to come.

Lastly and arguably one of the largest threats to the population is commercial fishing. In the 70’s, striped bass were nearly wiped out due to overfishing. According to the DNR “An Emergency Striped Bass Research Study suggested that excessive fishing pressure likely decimated the striped bass stock and precipitated the decline.” The extensive research done on the numbers has helped to better reflect current quotas for commercial fishing for striped bass. 

Moving forward I hope to see all the amazing conservation efforts going on spread and hopefully my kids and grandchildren will have the opportunity to catch 50” striped bass in the bay. Do your part and next time before you decide to make a meal out of a striped bass consider how many fish that single fish could produce. You are not just eating “one fish” but the next generation of monsters.