The great majority of the anglers from North Carolina to Maine, responding to the 13th annual fishing survey taken by Stripers Forever, reported catching fewer and smaller striped bass in 2015, reflecting a continuing downward trend in the quality of and thus angler interest in the fishery on the Atlantic Coast, according to a press release from the Maine-based advocacy group.
“Fully 84 percent of the 2015 survey respondents described the striper fishery as ‘worse’ or ‘much worse’ than in previous years,” said Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever, a conservation organization advocating game-fish status for stripers by ending the commercial fishery and managing the species coastwide for recreational fishing. “The survey results also show a participation decline in the striper fishery for the second consecutive year, which negatively affects guides, tackle businesses, and fishing tourism.
“It seems evident that most of the older, larger prime breeding fish from the great spawning-year classes of the 1990s and early 2000s have been removed from the striped bass population,” Mr. Burns continued. “The striper biomass is now considerably smaller as a result of the poor- to mediocre-year classes that have generally characterized the fishery since 2003. And it is important to note that almost 85 percent of the survey respondents said that the 2011-year class — highly touted by the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Committee, which manages the striped bass fishery — has not produced nearly as many surviving small schoolie-size stripers as expected.”
A clear majority of anglers responding to the 2015 Stripers Forever survey believe that the large stripers so vital to future spawning should not be harvested, and that a high percentage of the current commercial catch should be set aside for conservation. Further, 75 percent of all Stripers Forever members are willing to buy a striper stamp to finance a buyout of the commercial striper fishery.