Is the party over for striper fisherman in NJ? (Opinion)
New regulations will soon go into effect that will limit the number and size of striped bass you can keep in New Jersey. Currently you can keep one striper between 28 and 43 inches and one over 43 inches. If you have a bonus permit you can keep what is called a "slot" fish between 24 and 28 inches between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31. The new rule will limit you to just ONE striper between 28 and 38 inches and that's still nice fish between around 8 lbs. to about a 27 or 28 pound fish.
Starting May 15 the state will issue some 27,000 bonus tags for an extra slot fish between 24 and 28 inches to be kept. Fishing used to be simple and easy. Not anymore thanks to conservation efforts and federal and state regulations. Fines can be pretty hefty for violating the rules and it is important to know the rules.
I've been striper fishing in the bays and off the coast of New Jersey for over 20 years and it's been real good. But it seemed to have peaked around 2010 when almost anyone who could get a boat off the beach in spring or fall could score a big striper. The last few years have seen the numbers drop off dramatically and only the hard core striper fishermen willing to put in the time to find them could do well. A lot of charter captains would take two groups out per day and limit out on good days. Many of the captains would prefer their clients to release them, but a lot of guys want to take that monster fish home for the "wow" moment of showing it off in the driveway and posting pics online.
Most of the charter captains I've talked to think the new regs are a much needed fix for the dwindling striper population. A lot of those big 35 to 55 pounders are the breeders that produce the next generations of striped bass. Some fisherman blame the dredging and beach replenishment efforts up and down the coast for disturbing the natural habitat, driving fish further off shore.
You can't keep stripers beyond the three mile mark off shore and there are plenty of eyes on you to make sure you don't. Commercial fisherman who are offshore scalloping or taking other species report large numbers of big bass past the 3 mile mark, but that's off limits for sport fisherman. Whether it's cyclical, dredging or overfishing, something needed to be done. About 90% of the stripers caught are released and almost 10% end up dying. People have to be more careful and thoughtful when they release them to make sure they survive. You can still catch and release the big ones, but you can only keep that 'big one' in your cell phone photo album.
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