Catch and Release for Striped Bass is becoming more common
place with Striper fisherman.
Every Striper Angler has some control over their own
fishery. Below is information we've listed to help improve the chances of your released
Striped Bass surviving.
Seasonal Santee Cooper Striped Bass closure to begin June 1
More on the Proper
Release Techniques for Striped Bass
Video on catch and release for Striped Bass
Catch & release today helps build the fishery of tomorrow!
Striped Bass are
notoriously fragile once out of the water. Even fish that have been handled extremely well
may die once they are released even if they were only out of the water a short
period of time.
A team formed by the
Coastal Conservation Association
said recreational anglers may be killing over a million striped bass a year
unintentionally. Led by Maine fly fisherman
Brad Burns, the association is researching ways to reduce the death rate of
striped bass released by anglers. Burnss work follows a Maryland study indicating that catch-and-release
fishermen may be killing as much as 16.4 percent of the stripers they hook. The highest
death rates occur when the water is warmest.
The study was prompted because a substantial recreational
catch-and-release fishery for striped bass has grown along the Atlantic Coast because of
high population size, high minimum lengths, and low creel limits, wrote researchers
Rudy Lukacovic and Ben Florence. Releases rose from 38 percent of the catch in the
early 1980s to 93 percent by the early 1990s.
The highest percentage of fish caught in the Maryland study 18 to 20
Anglers in the study were instructed to use single-hook artificial lures, but some
treble-hook lures were used. Medium-action spinning and casting rods with 10 to 15-pound
line were standard.
Maryland scientists conducted the study in the upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay, where
water salinity is very low. When the fish were caught, they were transferred to oxygenated
tanks and scientists transported them to pens on the Susquehanna Flats. The pens were
checked for dead fish every three days.
As water temperature rose through the period of the study, the scientists
said, the mortality rate of all fish caught rose from 15 percent in mid-April to
4.2 percent in early May to 16.4 percent for late May. The overall death rate for the
study was 5.06 percent.
Bill Krueger, a scientist from the University of Rhode Island--and
a fly fisherman--criticizes the Maryland studys structure.
The Maryland researchers,
he says, should have included control fish, stripers that were caught in a
trap, netted, and transferred to the pens as the hooked fish were. That would have
provided more accurate data on how many fish die because of the hookup, fight, and
Looking at another estimate from the
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Brad
Burns said, Weve got a situation where the (catch-and-release death rate) of
striped bass is equal to 40 percent of the entire recreational catch . . . the fish that
recreational anglers keep.
If sport fishermen unintentionally kill the federal estimate of 8 percent of the stripers
they catch and release, Burns says, 1,300,300 fish are assumed to have died
Some people are talking educational programs (to teach anglers how to release fish
safely) but Ive been hearing about educational programs since I was a kid,
says Burns. I think theres some stomach now for outright regulations on
the kind of gear anglers could use, such as flies and jigs, and circle hooks for bait
fishing--terminal tackle that usually hook bass in the mouth only.
Researchers at the Texas Tech Department of Range, Wildlife, and Fisheries
Management recently published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management their
findings on hooking mortality of some 1,200 striped bass -- a huge and quite meaningful
sample size -- from fish caught and released from across the southern U.S. They pulled
information from previous hooking mortality studies done in North and South Carolina,
Maryland, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas. The findings could have implications to striper
fisheries across the country.
Dr. Gene Wilde led research looking into how bait type and water temperature affected the
survivability of striped bass caught and released. The study essentially asked: Are fish
caught on natural baits more apt to die from injury than one caught trolling a crank bait?
And temperature, the warmer the water the worse for wear? Here's what Dr. Wilde and his
team of researchers found.
Regardless of bait type, 29 percent of striped bass caught and released died within three
days. But compared between bait types, it was higher for fish caught on natural baits, at
42 percent. For artificial baits mortality was a much lower 25 percent.
But bait type alone didn't explain the variation. Water temperature figures prominently in
whether fish will survive. Simply put, the warmer the water, the more likely a released
striper is to perish, regardless of size. Climbing into the 80s, nearly 70 percent of
stripers caught on natural baits and 57 percent caught on artificial, perished.
According to Dr. Wilde, the exact implications of his findings to striper populations will
vary from water to water, but to him, one thing is clear.
"Our results do call into question catch-and-release fishing, especially in
summer," said Wilde. "Catch and release is viewed as having little effect on
populations, but when more than 30 percent of fish die, even in cooler water, I have a
hard time justifying releasing fish. Instead, requiring anglers to keep all fish captured,
up to their bag limit may be better."
Another alternative to striper management is seasonal closure. While it would afford some
protection to stripers, Wilde admits its not likely to happen with many striper fisheries.
Instead, Wilde thinks a seasonal relaxing of length limits might be better. Anglers might
just go ahead and keep what would otherwise be an undersized fish, given minimally a third
of released fish would perish anyway.
This year as you partake of top-notch striper fishing, think about what's at the end of
your line. If you belong to the secular church of catch and release, are you practicing
what you preach? Is your quarry going to survive to be caught another day?
This evidence is convincing. When and how you fish for stripers could have a lasting
impact to your sport. According to Wilde's research, you do have a choice.
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