Those of us who fish for, love, and value striped bass know that striper stocks are at a 25-year low. Many of you, like me, are also aware of the miserable job the ASMFC has done to manage those stocks. We’re angry. We’re frustrated. But we can’t give up, because there is hope: the American Saltwater Guides Association. The ASGA is on the side of healthy, sustainable striped bass fisheries management. Joining forces with them — or should I say, us — is going to create a critical mass that will help preserve our precious striped bass.Right now we are in the public comment phase of ASMFC Amendment 7 PID (Public Information Document). Here are three actionable steps you can take today to help save stripers:
Two: Attend the ASGA Striped Bass Town Hall on April 1, 7:30 p.m. It’s a Zoom meeting so you can do it from home. You can register here.
Three: This is probably the most important one: send in a public comment for the record. As an added incentive, The Saltwater Edge has program where you could win cool prizes just for doing your part. Details of that program are here. For instructions on how to submit a comment, click here. You have until April 9. Do it today! I thank you. The ASGA thanks you. And the stripers thank you.
In case you missed it, the ASMFC’s Striped Bass Board met last week. You gotta love this group. The Commission’s inability to grasp that striper stocks are in trouble, and that they are charged with recovering that stock, is almost staggering in its perfection. That unspoiled incompetence was on full display during the proceedings. The Commission is, as Bobby Knight said, “a legless man who teaches running.” Do you know what they did for 2 1/2 hours? They performed a deep dive into the urgent matter of tube-and-worm rigs. Or, as Charles Witek of One Angler’s Voyage described it, debating “how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.” Never mind those pesky issues of collapsing bass stocks and overfishing.
Meanwhile, rogue ASMFC states like Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey maintain their laser-like focus on how they can kill more stripers. (You know, out of mercy. They don’t want any stripers to starve to death.)
What’s a concerned angler to do? First, read this excellent essay from the ASGA’s (American Saltwater Guides Association) Tony Friedrich. Next, don’t give up hope. We all know the ASMFC’s process is irreparably broken. The ASGA is our current best hope to effect change within and for the ASMFC. So, finally, support the ASGA. They’re doing good work. They have a plan. They need you to be involved.
Q: How many ASMFC Striped Bass Board members does it take to change a light bulb? A: C’mon. The ASMCF can’t change a damn thing.
Hot on the heels of yesterday’s scathing menhaden management commentary comes a shout out to the Connecticut members of the ASMFC. This is from a post made by Charles Witek on Facebook: “The New England states are worried about lobster bait. Virginia is worried about Omega. Everyone is worried about cutting fishermen’s income. It’s probably no coincidence that–with the exception of Connecticut and Rhode Island–the states seeking a larger cut in menhaden landings were southern–North Carolina, Georgia and Florida–which have neither a lobster fishery nor a big menhaden fishery. Connecticut made a noteworthy effort to convince the Management Board to do the right thing, and Rhode Island has long been a leader for better menhaden management. Folks in those states–particularly in Connecticut–ought to thank their fisheries managers if they get the chance.” Huzzah! If you want to send them a thank you email, you can find their contact info here. Please comment here if you send an email!
On to striper fishing. I’ve spent a significant amount of time this fall learning a new mark. The going’s been slow, but on Tuesday night I finally had some action — about a dozen hits, and the water was so calm I could also see several follow-the-fly wakes. Nothing big, but the big fish potential remains. Then there was last night. Specifically, the fog. It came in on big galumphing herds of elephant feet. We’re talking horror-movie density fog. I hate fishing in fog. With a few notable exceptions, it’s always been a bite killer. And so it was last night. Still, I got to stand in the ocean and fish and smoke a cigar and you know, that ain’t all so bad…
If there is a defining line between heavy fog and actually rainfall, I think we reached that threshold.
The dumpster fire that is the ASMFC continues to burn brightly. If you want evidence that their conservation model appears to be based on the theme, “Kill more fish,” look no further than this week’s meeting of the ASMFC’s Menhaden Board.
I’ll let the ASGA pick up narrative. “Disappointing news coming out of this morning’s meeting of the ASMFC Menhaden Board, which had a great opportunity to show the public its commitment to recognizing menhaden’s critical role as a forage species. Despite the Board’s August decision to adopt Ecological Reference Points (ERPs), today it adopted 2021 and 2022 catch limits that have greater than a 50% chance of exceeding the fishing mortality target, undermining the intent of ERPs and disregarding public comments urging a precautionary approach to menhaden management. ‘Decision: Move to set a TAC of 194,400 metric tons for 2021 and 2022. 13-5-0-0 Roll Call.’ More details to follow in our full debrief of the ASMFC meeting.”
Stupid is as stupid does, and when it comes to conservation and fisheries management, nobody does stupid better than the ASMFC.
This is from the American Saltwater Guides Association:
“Striped bass young of the year just came out from MD Department of Natural Resources. The 2020 results are pretty much awful. The YOY index for 2020 was a dismal 2.5 with a running mean of 11.5. The 2015 year class is the last dominant class on record. With the ASMFC meeting coming up next week, now is the time to get involved. Striped bass need you now more than ever.”
You can find the Chesapeake YOY survey results here.
The ASGA continues to be a positive influencer for striped bass conservation. If you’d like to get involved, or make a donation, visit their website.
Out favorite dysfunctional — or is that non-functional? — committee met this week to begin formulating its future plans for striped bass. In another insightful essay, Charles Witek asks the question, “How Do you Define Success?” Suffice to say, the ASMFC grades itself on an absurdly low curve.
So where’s that Gurgling Sand Eel pattern you asked for? On its way. No, really. I’m hoping by the weekend.
Also coming soon: the official 800 followers celebration. Get your comments ready!
Last but not least, it’s been a tough summer due to drought and heat, but I fish in cycles, and right now I’ve got smallmouth on the brain. Big time. Nonetheless, to the Farmington I go. Guiding today.
Warm, low water doesn’t bother him. He liked the look of a TeQueely.
If you fish for and love striped bass, Charles Witek is a national treasure. He stays on top of nearly every important meeting, issue, and decision regarding striped bass stock management, and reports back to us. Here’s a terrific essay from his blog, One Angler’s Voyage, “ASA Striped Bass Webinar Omits Key Rebuilding Issue.”
I can’t remember the last time I took a legal fish. Might have been Block last summer.
In case you missed it (I know I did), here are a couple good, quick reads on last week’s ASMFC striper meeting. First up is Captain John McMurray’s take. Next, Charles Witek warns of history repeating itself in this trenchant blog post.
I hope you’re all safe and well. These two fine pieces will keep you entertained as well as informed.
I’m going to be tying some of these (Crazy Menhaden flatwing/bucktail hybrid) soon.
It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. Welcome to the wonderful world of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission winter meetings. Yesterday’s focus was on discussing and formalizing each state’s Conservation Equivalency proposals. Almost 24 hours later, here are three big takeaways.
Settle in for a cup of tea. This might take a while.
The ASMFC is structurally and procedurally bloated. An efficient organization this is not. The webinar was audio only, so it made a helter-skelter meeting like this one even more challenging to follow. At times it was like watching a Bergman film — you try your best to keep up but you’re never really sure what’s going on. And I’m not the only one who saw it that way — the chairman of the meeting described it, and I’ll quote, as “chaotic.” Maybe it’s just as well that the meeting wasn’t video broadcast — surely you could lump the ASMFC Winter 2020 CE decisions along with laws and sausages as things you should never see being made.
My reaction to some states’ CE proposals can best be summed up by Otto, who so eloquently stated: “Disappointed!!!” (That includes you, Rhode Island.)
Beware of rogue states within the ASMFC. North Korea, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and…New Jersey? Let’s not forget Maryland, who along with New Jersey have some rather — ahem — creative ideas on how to best conserve and restore our rapidly dwindling stocks of striped bass. Remember in “A Fish Called Wanda,” when Wanda reminds Otto that the central message of Buddhism is not “Every man for himself?” Someone should point out to Maryland and New Jersey that the ASMFC mission is not, “Kill as many striped bass as you can under the cloak of conservation.” Nope, those emperors don’t have new clothes. They’re wearing the same crappy, poorly camouflaged outfits they’ve been sporting for years. Kudos to those who saw through their charades, like…
Some ASMFC Commissioners get it. If a state’s CE proposal fails to achieve target results, that state should be held accountable, right? High fives to those commissioners who called out certain CE proposals, effectively telling those states to behave and eat its broccoli. Apologies in advance to those I missed, but here are a few of the people who fought the good fight yesterday: Justin Davis (CT). Capt. John McMurray (NY). Ritchie White (NH). Pat Keliher (ME). Again, these are only a few of the people I could positively identify. A very sincere thank you to all of you who are trying to save our stripers. If you’re reading this, why not take a few minutes to send them an email of thanks and support. You can find that list here.
Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Some commissioners clearly do.Especially those who understand that killing this fish now doesn’t bode well for the future.