For Anglers along the Atlantic Coast, striped bass are one of the most important fish species. You can catch them in so many different ways and in so many different places. Unlike many species you do not need a boat to catch stripers, they are accessible from shore or paddle board making them an “everyone’s fish”. However, they are once again in trouble, and so are the communities, anglers, and businesses that depend on a healthy, abundant striped bass population.
My entire livelihood is based off if there are fish in the water. If there are no fish, I do not have a business. It is as simple as that. It is not only myself or other guides who are in trouble, it is an entire economy. People that come and fish for stripers are staying in hotels, going out to drinks, dinner, spending money in our local economies. If they stop coming, so does that income that our island of Martha’s Vineyard relies on. Striped bass need to be protected not only our economy, but for a healthy, diverse fishery. The American Saltwater Guides Association, which I’m a proud supporter of, has been at the forefront of improving striped bass management and conservation and is now calling on the community to help striped bass.
In 2022, striped bass recreational harvests increased substantially because of a prolific year-class entering the slot limit (thus subject to increased harvest pressures). This harvest, which nearly doubled from 2021, completely disrupted the odds of successfully rebuilding the striper population by 2029, which the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is required to do. We must rebuild this stock and do it quickly, because recent recruitment has been historically poor. Quite simply, we are exerting way too much harvest pressure on the last good year classes, have no new year-classes coming down the pipeline, and will not rebuild the stock unless action is taken by the ASMFC at its May meeting. So many businesses like mine and others depend on stripers for much of our seasons, and this uncertainty puts all of us that love and cherish striped bass at risk. I made the choice to become a guide and to dedicate my life and livelihood on the ocean. I want my daughter and the next generation to have that opportunity.
ASGA has developed an action page that goes into far more detail and has ways to help, but the writing is on the wall–striped bass are in deep, deep trouble. I know many anglers have experienced some good fishing in recent years, but it’s nothing like it once was nor could return to. [another opportunity for local/personal anecdotes] Also, that good fishing is partly the result of the strong 2015-year class, which we–collectively, anglers along the Atlantic Coast–are harvesting the heck out of. So much so, that the odds of rebuilding decreased by more than 80% to around 14% chances of success! This fish and those that depend on it deserve much better.
ASGA is calling on the ASMFC to initiate Addendum II to ensure that striped bass are rebuild by 2029. “Today, we believe that the striped bass fishery is at an inflection point: if action is not taken at the upcoming May meeting, the stock will not rebuild by 2029 and drastic measures may become warranted,” ASGA writes on its action page. The striped bass and fly fishing communities need to show support and tell the ASMFC to take the necessary steps to rebuild this iconic fishery for all! If you love fishing for striped bass and want to see this species rebuilt, please head on over to ASGA’s action page and sign on to their letter.
Abbie Schuster is a guide and business owner on Martha’s Vineyard, where striped bass are an essential fishery from May-November. Learn more about Abbie and Kismet Outfitters!
Cover picture by @ZentoSlinger
Striped Bass Management Updates–Stock Assessment, Commercial Quota, Rebuilding?
The solution is simple and so am I. Catch, photo, and release.