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Thread: Where are the Striped Bass?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008

    Default Where are the Striped Bass?

    As promised, I said I would be putting up some threads that got you folks to look at some opinions that might be different from yours, and the flawed scientific data we now accept as Gospel.

    Remember that Apathy is the enemy of Democracy.

    Where are the Bass? (and shad)

    Folks, the spring Striped bass hasn’t been that spectacular this year for surf fishermen. For the folks that have more mobility and can target them in boats, the run seems about equal to the years before. I reported that guys were catching them, and when, in my reports. However, most of the people doing the catching were die-hard anglers who target them every year. Many others have gone fishing for them, and have been disappointed.

    Now, one year of poor fishing is nothing to raise a fire alarm about, and I want to make this clear to people. There are many reasons why we could have a poor run:

    • Cyclical nature of fishing
    • Less than optimal weather conditions, ie. Too hot, cold, or rainy. Different streamflow or ocean current conditions as a result of the weather.
    • A poor birth rate in the past year or years can contribute to a poor “year class” which affects biomass down the road.
    • Predators and disturbances preventing eggs from being fertilized.
    • More people targeting them (This is the possibility that few want to talk about, because it promotes strong opinions on both sides, and on many boards ends up with insults or bad feelings.)
    • More people joining the community of fishermen, which means more people are fishing overall, or have started to target that species. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s a free country, and every who wants to fish should have the right to do so. However, greater participation by new anglers will probably affect the biomass in years ahead, and we should start talking about how better to share our precious resources.
    I decided to begin these specific threads in response feedback about the fishing reports. Some people said: “Joe, how can you be so positive in your WIR reports each week if many people, especially those who don’t have a boat, are going out and catching nothing each time?”

    One response to that is they are not fishing at the right times.

    In the case of shad, you really need to fish at times when the tide and light conditions are optimal. Sometimes the the bite is off for reasons other than what an angler thinks.

    Also, if the current is too strong in the rivers due to rainwater runoff, conditions will be less than optimal. If you can get the right condition of outgoing tide, current, and light, your chances are better.

    Unfortunately, many people cannot time all these conditions for optimal effectiveness. We all have jobs, family responsibilities, and other commitments. We fish when we can.

    Another response is that the healthy bass populations are eating more shad, which affects the biomass overall. It is interesting to note that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. A diehard shad fisherman will tell you the shad numbers are down. They will cite many possibilities for this, and the question of whether striped bass eat too many shad comes up time and time again.

    A diehard striped bass fisherman, particularly if they have been fishing for decades, will also grudgingly admit that the bass numbers are “possibly” down, and cite many different reasons why they think this is true.

    We all have reasons for arriving at different conclusions, and everyone has a right to their opinion. It’s extremely difficult to prove, with science, which opinion is more valid than another.

    If you are getting skunked when you fish for striped bass and bluefish from the surf, here is some helpful info:

    Large predators, particularly striped bass, are low light feeders that feed predominantly at sunrise, dusk, and in the night.

    You will always have situations where people catch big striped bass and bluefish in the daytime. However, these mostly involve times where there predators are coaxed into a frenzy by the presence of large bait schools, particularly large bunker schools.
    The continued presence of healthy bunker does more to help promote surf fishing than many other factors. Without bunker, pickings would be mighty slim, and some people might give up fishing for good.

    I addressed these possibilities to help people catch more fish, but I also want to address the most serious (and hardest to prove) possibility:

    What if there are not “more fish” to catch?

    What if we are really making a difference in the fish population, and will not know the scientific truth for a few years? Is it pointless to try to talk about it now?

    I am putting this out there for anglers who want to spend a little time, research this topic, learn from the research, and form their own opinions.

    We, as anglers and sportsmen, represent a HUGE lobby that could get many things done, if we could all agree at the same time on one or more issues. Yet, we are highly fractionalized into many different groups and clubs.

    Some of these groups feel they should not get involved in something if another group is supporting it. Others, who have less than a decade fishing experience, haven’t seen the vast changes that can occur in our different fisheries.

    All I am asking is for people to do some research, educate themselves, and get more involved, before the well-organized members of the PEW trust get involved and try to take our choices away.

    (If you have never heard of the PEW Trust, google them and learn how they are behind many of the MPAs and Marine closures in this country.) They also cleverly try to work behind the scenes by putting out money for scientific research, done by "fishermen". this allows every piece of material they publish to have an air of legitimacy. I do not have enough info to stand up and challenge their methods. However, it is my opinion that they are very clever in getting involved "behind the scenes" so people who suspect their goal is to restrict fishing will not sound the alarm.

    This info took a long time to put together for you folks. I will continue to provide threads like this when I can, because I feel it is worth it to raise awareness. I also welcome comment from any people who can give us proof of positive things organizations like the PEW trust has done for fishermen. Democratic debate encouraged here.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008


    The main theme of this thread is whether or not the striped bass population is declining, and what could be the possible reasons for declines in surf catches. I am talking about changes over decades. A year or so of poor fishing does not necessarly indicate a crisis, but it should raise some questions when the NMFS and ASMFC stats indicate the striped bass population is at historical highs.

    I do not believe any solution will be cut and dried, nor will it please everyone, as indicated by sentiments of shad anglers that Striped bass biomass is growing at the expense of shad and herring.

    Everything is inter-related. I believe if fisheries management was more inclined to look at things this way, and more motivated to produce cleaner, more accurate data, we would have a better position from which to make informed choices.

    The following posts illustrate a series of comments I found by a veteran NJ surf angler, Allen Riley. He is a very skilled fisherman, with decades of experience.

    Lately he has not been catching bass at Sandy Hook. This is odd to me because a man with his experience seems to pull bass out of the water when no one else can.

    There are several possible reasons why he is not catching too many bass this year as of yet. Many of our members are catching bass in the dead of night, which makes sense. However, he fishes sunrise religiously, which used to be productive.

    Maybe the bass have shifted migration away from the near shore Jersey surf, (which doesn't make sense because guys in boats are still catching them).

    There is a corrollary possibility that the runs are cyclical. NY surf areas are having a bonanza, this Spring being the best in a long time for some of them. If the bass have seemed to bypass the surf in NJ, why are they consistently being caught in the surf in NY?

    Other reasons: the bait is just not there in quantities of the past, water temperatures have caused a lot of bass to migrate northward without stopping here, or several other possiblities come into play.

    What if one of those possibilities is that there are less bass to be caught? How could this be possible?

    If you can, please read his comments, and feel his frustration. There is also a comment by the owner of He is another veteran angler who feels the numbers are down, though there is no scientific proof as of yet.

    Anyone who has anecdotal evidence to add, please feel free. Many feel this is a load of BS, and I know this will not make me popular with many folks. Lots of businesses have a vested interest in people spending as much as possible seeking and catching striped bass.

    I don't fault these people. They are only trying to make a living.

    I felt it was time to try to address some of it. Many times in discussions with anglers, each group blames another group.

    Many anglers have said to me they feel it is the commercial guys, who they feel are dumping too many bass as bycatch. If you read the statistics, you will see it is not the fault of commercial fishermen. They have reputations for lots of things, but killing the bulk of striped bass should not be blamed on them.

    Anyone who wants to do research and post ASMFC and NMFS data before I can get to it, feel free. Or you can just vent your opinions here.

    Following are the comments --

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008


    Where are the Bass?

    5/29 - Sandy Hook Surf
    I fished Sandy Hook from 5:15 - 8:15 this morning with worms and bunker chunks. You could not ask for a nicer weather day. The air was crisp and clear, there was a moderate offshore wind, the water was crystal-clear, the air temp tolerable, and the surf barely moving.
    I took a leap of faith this morning in not wearing waders or boots for the first time. The water IS still very cold but manageable. It was nice not to be encumbered with my waders for a change.
    George Levins joined me around 7 a.m. and we had the entire shoreline to ourselves. There was not another angler on the beach in either direction. George fished clams.
    George fished the Hook the entire holiday weekend. He saw only skates and sea robins caught on all three days at "B" beach. No one had any luck whatsoever with stripers. One of his associates fished "C" beach Sunday and encountered 10-pound bluefish attacking big bunkers in the cove there (5:45 - 6:30 a.m.) Those blues never showed at "B" although George said that a school of blues were just out of casting range on Monday. (Boaters slaughtered them!)
    Another angler emailed me that he fished Sandy Hook's North Beach Sunday night/Saturday morning. Around 3 a.m. he and his associates found bunker pods heading north with big bluefish and stripers chasing them. According to his report, they caught over 100 stripers and 8 keeper stripers on lures from 3 a.m. until about 9 a.m. The bass ranged from 29 to 37-inches. He claimed that in his 40 years of fishing he had never seen so many adult bunker beached during a blitz.
    As with most things in life, timing is everything!

    5/23 - Sandy Hook Surf Dead
    If this account seems familiar, it is because I have described similar results after my last several visits to Sandy Hook. The annual surf striper run should be in full swing but this year it never even got started.
    I fished solo this morning from 5:20 until about 8 a.m. I used fresh bunker chunks and even enhanced them with BioEdge Fishing Bunker Scent. I also tried fishing some of the Greedy Bait Fat Worms (freeze-dried sandworms.
    The good news is that I hit a blitz; the bad news is that it was a skate blitz. They hit every bunker chunk that I threw their way from when I first arrived until I ran out of bait. Except for a couple of sea robins, that was all that I had to show for my time and effort.
    There was no visible bait in the wash, no gulls working over fish offshore, and not even many boats passing by. There was a solo angler working a beach far to my north and two anglers fishing bait about 500 feet to the south of me.
    Where's the fish!?

    5/21 - Stripers, Blues Conspiciously Absent from Sandy Hook Surf
    I fished the Sandy Hook surf solo this morning from 5:30 until just after 8 a.m. My bait choice was fresh bunker.
    The conditions were ideal: mid-tide with the tide coming in, a settled surf, moderate wind, sunny sky, and comfortable conditions. Yesterday's rain was just a memory. Unfortunately, no one sent the fish a memo that they were supposed to be there and be cooperative.
    Other than that dogfish, I only caught one small skate. There were no signs of bait in the wash or fish working under gulls offshore. Oddly enough, there were not even any party, charter, or private boats passing by. There were more anglers along the shoreline this morning than on Monday (when there were none!). None of the anglers within my eyesight caught anything.

    From another internet fishing board:
    5-21-08 boat - Where the heck are the stripers? Almost June and no spring run, this sucks!

    More of Allen Riley's comments as originally posted on
    5/19 - Sandy Hook Surf Dead
    By this time in May, the Sandy Hook surf run of stripers is normally red-hot. I caught no bass (or blues) either this morning or last Thursday when my brother accompanied me.
    Last week I fished live clams, bunker chunks, and sandworms but just worms and bunker this morning. Except for several large skates this morning, there was no action whatsoever.
    Of concern to me is that none of my surf associates are calling or emailing me about fish that they have caught, and there was not a single angler on the beach in either direction while I fished this morning from 5:30 until just after 8. When the fishing is good, anglers line the shoreline jockeying for prime spots.
    Surf fishing is always about being in the right spot at the right time. Either I have been in the wrong spots or have fished at the wrong time - or the fish just are not there.
    Boaters seem to be doing decently with the bass and blues but you do not even read reports in the newspaper saltwater fishing columns about fish being caught in the surf. Hopefully, the surf will soon come alive and draw anglers into the action.

    5/6 - Stripers Still Absent from Sandy Hook Surf
    What a difference a day makes! Blues attacked any bunker chunk dunked in the Sandy Hook surf yesterday morning but even that action was missing this morning. Just like yesterday, striped bass were conspiciously absent.
    The big question is: Where are the bass? The Sandy Hook spring striper sun run normally is well underway by now.

    [This comment was made by another staff member of the, where most of these comments were taken from.]

    5/3 - Delaware Bay (AKA "The Dead Sea")
    We made a decision to stick to a certain area of the bay where a few friends had taken occasional nice fish lately. Armed with the freshest bunker chunks imaginable, fresh herring, clams, and a baitwell full of live bunker, we set up in the fog just before 7am with high hopes. Well, those hopes stayed high through about noon, then slowly dwindled after that. Despite bunker flipping as far as the eye could see in every direction, we didn't see a single fish all day. In fact, we didn't hear a single radio report of a single bass all day. A few small drum was the only word.
    In the end, nearly 50 boats fished the tournament and only 8 boats caught a fish, and at least one of those boats ran all the way to the Chesapeake Bay to do it. I can't ever remember a year when the Delaware Bay was so devoid of stripers. I am confident that this will change soon, at least to some extent, but it's nonetheless concerning to me.

    This quote comes from

    12/17/07 - I am unhappy to report the striper situation from my standpoint is still on the decline. My personal striper count for this year dropped to 765 from 1400+ in 2006. I fish mostly from the beaches and the shore of the bays on outer Cape Cod. The number of big fish has declined drastically. Most other fishermen I have talked to have similar results. Do what you can to help rectify this bad situation. Get involved!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    Hey bunkerjoe, sometimes I hear from surf guys that all us boat guys are killing them every night. Some of us have had a great spring so far, but not all of us. This quote came from another site. I will try to post other comments here as time permits. I think this thread was a great idea. Time to get it out in the open before it's too late.

    "Took my 6th or 7th trip tonight for stripers. Well, 2 keepers on the boat, with a couple of dropped fish. Personally, did not get a striper to touch my bait, but did pull in a few blues before dark. I only have one keeper so far this spring, which is the worst in the past ten springs. Doesn't seem to be just me, kind of everyone is strugling.

    Any root causes?"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    I have been striped bass fishing for about 15 years, and I would definitely agree with what you are trying to do here. My logs show less numbers, mostly declining in the last 5 years. I didn't always catch decent numbers, especially before the moratorium, but if referring to total numbers since the moratorium was enacted, the first few years were better for me, and the last 5 have declined.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    written by Bill Donovan, publisher of NJ Angler

    I have stayed out of this debate, primarily because I try to make it a point not to criticize anglers for following the letter of the law. Two stripers is really not a lot of fish to keep for an occasional angler who charters a boat and happens to enjoy the best fishing day of his or her life. Besides, we are so overly regulated right now (and these regulations are really starting to affect our industry) that I hate to be pushing for more.

    However, I happen to believe that the once-in-a-lifetime action along the Northern Jersey beaches is NOT representative of the overall health of the stock. In NJ alone, go just a few miles south and striper anglers are pretty close to being dry, and have been all spring. For example, there was no spring run in the Delaware Bay. None, Zilch, Zippo. I understand completely that things like water temp, forage, etc. play a role, and that fish surely do have tails, but with a stock so strong, how can it be that they bypassed the Delaware System? There are trends I've watched for a few years now, and they are disturbing.

    I wrote about this issue at length in our March issue, and you can read the article in its entirety by clicking here. I hope you'll take a few minutes to do it. There is a lot of technical information in there that you may find interesting.

    Let me bring up one point that I mentioned in another thread in another forum last week. If one were to think back to the 1970's, the last period that produced giant stripers like we're seeing now, all those big bass were taken in and around Raritan Bay and along the northern NJ coast, like they are today. Despite the fact that the world record came from Atlantic City in '82, there was little or no directed striped bass fishery in NJ south of LBI during those years. The impact of the more consistent Hudson nursery to the striped bass fishery was apparent during that timeframe, and I believe we are seeing the same thing now.

    Those who have read Frank Daignault's "Twenty Years on the Cape" will see similarities between then and now. In that book the author writes about an incredible big fish opportuntiy throughout the 70's before the bottom fell out in the 80's. I happened to peruse that book again the other day, and the similarity to today's situation gave me chills.

    I'm not saying the sky is falling with respect to striped bass, but I am saying that those who are fortunate enough to participate in what is going on underneath those bunker schools in northern NJ should understand that it is very, very special and quite localized. Don't take it for granted, not for a second, because you may blink at it may be gone.
    Bill Donovan
    Publisher, NJ Angler
    Co-host, NJ Angler Video Magazine

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    My father and uncles talk about this all the time. I really haven't been fishing that long as compared to everyone else, but guys are saying this more and more. Me, I'm just happy to catch one bass, that's what they should change things to.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    inside a wormhole, Mass.


    Don't have proof to post for ya, but I can tell ya that Mass and Maine are having some of the worst fishing ever. Guys in boats are getting nice fish, but for us fishing the surf and rivers, the numbers seem down.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2008


    I think there are too many "meat-men". Guys who take their limit day in and day out. This will go on until they do something to change the laws. Great thread.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    New Jersey


    I fish mostly on my brother in law's boat. He's been fishing for them for 20 years. We get bass, but this and last year have not been as good as when I first started going for them. If you run into a spring or fall blitz, its all good. Otherwise, we are catching less, especially in the summer.

    Good thread.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    I think next Spring we'll see a decline in the fishery based on the numbers of large that were reported this Spring. You all know that many guys won't report, the real numbers have to be bigger.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2008


    Bump for a great thread.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2008


    Wow, I was searching the pages and found this. Very informational stuff.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2008


    This was such a great fall, no one will think that way. I like your line of thinking though, we should all try to think of the future.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2008


    well i have bin doing well since the spring i dont know were u guys have bin fishing but its bin one of my best years the only thing that slowed me down was work but now i am puting away the striper stuff till spring then i will be back at and my last keeper was 40 inches

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Deliverance River, NJ


    This came from the NY times 12/10/08

    ".....David Blinken, a fly-fishing guide who had taken us fishing that morning, cautioned that the fish stacked up at Montauk Point did not necessarily mean the fishery was healthy. This year, he said, the population was noticeably down.
    “Other guides and captains from Maine to New Jersey are noticing the same thing,” Blinken said. “People are taking too many fish.”
    Orifice reported the same.
    “Charter boats are going out — captain, mate and six anglers — and taking their limit, two fish per person over 28 inches,” he said. “That’s 16 fish per trip, including the captain and mate. They go out three times a day and limit out every time.”
    Frank Crescitelli, who runs fishing charters for catch-and-release anglers in the New York area, described a major black-market fishery for stripers.
    “I could take you out any day of the week, seven days a week, and show you someone poaching stripers, right off the parachute jump at Coney Island,” Crescitelli said. “They’re back at the dock by 9 or 9:30, loading a van with fish, unharassed and unchallenged.
    “From Montauk to Staten Island, there are only seven marine conservation officers. How could they possibly police that amount of water?”
    In one recent striped-bass poaching case, an angler was caught — within New York City limits, where commercial fishing is illegal — with 872 pounds of striped bass.
    “In the mid-’80s, there was a moratorium on striped bass: no commercial fishery at all,” Crescitelli said. “You know how to fix something? Leave them alone.”

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    Joe, I found something to add to this. It came from a blog where they also sell outdoor gear, I hope it's ok to post the link. What this guy says is the same thing you have been implying. Friends who live in Maine had a poor season in 2008, and some of the southern areas have had diminished spring runs. Among friends who own boats, there are not many that will consider this, except for a few guys I know who fish a lot. This all adds up to a smaller biomass, it makes sense to me. My .02. Great thread.

    "Large concentrations of bass in some areas doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthy stock:
    Man, there were some crazy striped bass blitzes in Montauk this year. The kind that make you just drop your rod and say “Holy *@$%!”. Truly extraordinary stuff. Understandably, such blitzes might make one believe that striped bass are extremely abundant. Unfortunately that is not the case. In other regions, particularly the Northeast, there are widespread complaints about the lack of quality stripers. In Maine, guides are going out of business because of the very real lack of what was once a thriving fishery.

    As guides like Capt. Dave Pecci and Capt. Doug Jowett point out, it’s not due to the lack of forage as there seems to be abundant bait concentrations in the areas that they fish. Indeed I fear that Maine’s position at the northernmost part of the striped bass migration makes it a bellwether state.

    In light of such Montauk blitzes, I ask you to consider the below passage taken from a University of New Hampshire Department of Natural Resources document titled A Guide to Fisheries Stock Assessment.

    This is the document used to educate members of the fisheries management councils on how fisheries stock assessments are conducted:
    “Fishermen will actively seek out areas with greater fish concentrations. As a result, their catch-per-unit effort could remain stable in the face of a declining stock. Consider a stock that contracts its range as the population shrinks, or increases its range as the population grows. Despite the changing range, catch-per-unit effort may remain relatively constant if the fishermen focus their effort on the center of the range, where fish density remains relatively stable.”

    With this in mind, I would think managers would be practicing extreme caution when managing striped bass, particularly in light of its immense recreational value. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Delaware and Pennsylvania want open two-month fishing seasons targeting mature male striped bass. Maryland has proposed to extend non-quota management for its trophy fishery in 2009 and until stock assessment indicates that corrective action is necessary, and Virginia wants to extend its season.

    All of these measure will increase fishing mortality on striped bass.

    In my opinion they are reckless, and they show no respect for the views of those hardworking Maine guides that are being forced out of business. Undoubtedly, there seems to be a trend toward killing more bass rather than a move in the other direction.

    That’s understandable given the recent stock assessment and the states’ understanding that their anglers want to kill more bass. But I think there’s a large majority of folks that would rather proceed down a precautionary road. Once which insures that we have plenty of big fish around in the future. It’s up to these anglers to let their state reps know their wishes. It seems as if the kill-more-fish-now folks are the only ones being listened to at this point, and that has to stop."
    Captain John McMurray

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    to Bunkerjoe for having the courage to start this thread. Not everyone will agree, at least we can sit here and have conversations like adults instead of pointing the fingers at each other. I get a little irritated when surf guys come down on we who mostly fish on boats. We're all in this together, when the big bass are no longer around we all suffer. Here's a great, reasoned argument supporting exactly what you were saying, Joe. It was posted by Capt Aaron Kelly of Rock Solid fishing out of North Carolina. I hope it's ok to mention his name here. I think Capt Kelly is spot on. It's not only the commercial guys, it's all of us.

    ".....Hope you guys can tell I am pretty jacked up on the fishing. The only bummer has been the beach net, drop net, and trawling seasons all have been open. This is the first time ever in NC history to my knowledge that all three are open at the same time. The trawlers have been super whacking them hopefully they crushed their quota.

    Everyone wants a piece of the ever dwindling pie and we have to get all this mismanagement in order or in three years there will be no stripers!!! DEPEND on THAT!!! Depend on it!!! Greed is wiping out the stripers.

    I do not want commercial fishing out of the picture but reasonable harvesting techniques and accountable quotas need to be in place. So guys lets try to throw a few back for seed.

    And to all you high graders... rec and commercial...quit .

    Seeing floating 15- 20 lb stripers half dying on top of the water because the trawler wants to sell the biggest 100 he can box is wrong. It is good busines for him and most of us would do the same in their shoes.

    Put an observer on the boat the them whack the crap out of em and when the poundage quota is filled then they go harvest something else. Besides the 15-25lbers to me taste better.

    I am telling you guys the stock, just like I said last year at this time are down, try way down to 20% of what is was five years ago. That is forty million stripers gone. It blows my mind in the year 2009 we are going to finish off the striper stocks to endangered because of greed. Not many in the industry both commercial and charter want to admit it openly but believe me behind the scenes the consensus is the same, the ha ha ride is gonna end.
    Thanks to everyone for fishing!!!"

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    I am noticing the bass bite has seem to slow down for the south Jersey area. I wonder if this is the way it is for this time of year, or it there were actually less bass around this year from last. It's so hard to figure out. I read this thead, but how can you actually tell without science behind you?

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2008

    Default Striper Signals

    Some science for you seamonkey. This is a great Read by Ted Williams.

    Darkskies. I tried to copy this outside of the pdf, but it seems your site had restrictions on the size of a post, so here it is, broken down into 10.
    Striper Signals
    If you care about fishing along the Atlantic
    coast for striped bass, be afraid—very afraid.

    by Ted Williams


    ALL ABOUT...


    the Atlantic population of striped bass is

    crashing. But why should you listen to

    me, when I and virtually all my fellow

    striper advocates who aren’t fish managers

    have been saying this for five years?

    And why should you listen to us when

    the trained professionals hired to tend the

    resource promise that everything is fine

    and dandy and when all we anglers can

    offer is anecdotal info—the most unreliable

    of all evidence, “barroom biology”

    as it has been called?

    Before I answer those questions, here’s

    another: Why should you listen to the

    managers who, relying on what they

    called “scientific evidence,” ran stripers

    to commercial extinction less than three

    decades ago, all the while assuring us that

    everything was fine and dandy?

    Finally, in 1984, Congress intervened with the

    Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, a

    law requiring the Secretary of Commerce

    to impose a moratorium on striper fishing

    in any East Coast state not in compliance

    with a management plan hatched by the

    Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

    (ASMFC), representing coastal states

    from Maine to North Carolina, Pennsylvania,

    and the District of Columbia.

    Because they were on a congressionally

    mandated rescue mission and, more

    importantly, because they had the help of

    sportfishermen who forced moratoriums,

    ASMFC managers did better. Rocket science

    it wasn’t.

    Suddenly stripers had a chance to grow up and spawn, and the

    population rebounded spectacularly. But

    the ongoing media mantra that this was

    a “triumph” of fisheries management is

    like lauding a pilot for executing a perfect

    belly landing after he’d forgotten to

    deploy the landing gear.

    Now the slaughter is on again, dwarfing

    anything we saw in the 1970s; and when

    it comes to mindsets, even a taxonomist

    can’t tell a state manager from an ASMFC

    manager. Both see fish as swimming wheat

    to be reaped at so-called “maximum sustainable


    Managing for abundance

    and healthy size and age structure instead

    of dead-on-the-dock protein has never

    occurred to them.

    Let’s get back to the apparent striper

    crash. First, fish crashes generated by professional

    fisheries managers take a good

    deal longer to manifest than five years,

    as we saw with the cod crash, the haddock

    crash, the white-marlin crash, the

    swordfish crash, the tuna crash, the grouper

    crash, the snapper crash, the snook

    crash, the redfish crash, the weakfish

    crash, the winter-flounder crash, the fluke

    crash, the southern-flounder crash, the

    Atlantic-salmon crash, the Pacific-salmon

    crash, the steelhead crash, the river-herring

    crash, the menhaden crash, and the

    first striper crash, to mention just a few.

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