Catch And Release Techniques For Striped Bass

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. Burns’s 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 inches long.

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.
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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 study’s 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 release.
Looking at another estimate from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Brad Burns said, “We’ve 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” annually.
“Some people are talking educational programs (to teach anglers how to release fish safely) but I’ve been hearing about educational programs since I was a kid,” says Burns. “I think there’s 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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