State Proposes New Rules to Help Keep Stripers Swimming
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) will be proposing to implement two new conservation measures for the striped bass fisheries aimed at minimizing the number of fish that are killed through hooking and releasing.
The proposed measures would prohibit the use of gaffs and mandate the use of in-line circle hooks when using live or cut natural baits.
The Massachusetts recreational striped bass fishery is primarily catch-and-release. Anglers release about 93 percent of all the striped bass they catch. Discards in the commercial striped bass fishery, though difficult to quantify, are also believed to make up a significant share of the catch, especially given the larger minimum size for that fishery.
Studies have shown that about 9 percent of released striped bass will die from the effects of hooking and handling, so DMF is implementing broad-based measures to lower the mortality rate and ensure the future health of the striped bass stock.
Using a gaff to assist in bringing your catch aboard causes significant injury to the fish and there is often no way to tell the precise length of this fish until it is removed from the water. Given that large numbers of striped bass are just below the legal size limit, the DMF feels it is irresponsible to continue to allow the practice.
The mandatory use of in-line circle hooks is the single most effective way to decrease mortality in striped bass. Deep hooking is the major contributor to release mortality. It has been demonstrated that the use of circle hooks, as compared to j-hooks, greatly reduces the incidence of deep hooking.
DMF will be bringing the proposal to implement these two new regulations to public hearing this winter. Public input is sought. The meetings will be held at the DMF Annisquam River Station, 30 Emerson Ave., Gloucester, on Feb. 27 starting at 6 p.m.
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