Striped bass regulations

Danielle Beerley, 53, of Atlantic City, prepares a hook and bait for striper and bluefish on the jetty near the Waterfront. 

A regional fisheries management commission approved a draft plan Thursday aimed at stopping the overfishing of Atlantic striped bass along the East Coast.

Atlantic striped bass are one of the most popular catches along the Jersey Shore, and the frenzy surrounding their season has spawned the phrase “striper fever,” when scores of excited anglers head to jetties day after day in the fall in pursuit of the coveted fish.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s proposal in May to reduce the quota by 18% angered some recreational fishers who say it will hurt South Jersey’s fishing economy, while others back the effort to protect the species for future generations.

On Thursday, the commission voted in favor of considering a minimum size limit of 30 inches and closing portions of the season. In New Jersey, it closes from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 in the ocean.

“The draft addendum is a critical first step to stem overfishing as quickly as possible and begin efforts to rebuild the biomass,” said board Chairman Michael Armstrong with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries in a news release. “Following approval of the addendum, the board will likely initiate a new amendment to consider a longer-term strategy to fully rebuild the resource.”

Current regulations in New Jersey allow recreational fishers to keep one striper between 28 and 43 inches and another greater than 43 inches. In 2017, the Garden State landed the second largest proportion of the recreational harvest in number of fish (21%), behind Maryland.

Tom Fote, a New Jersey representative appointed by the governor to the commission, said he wants to ensure the new rules don’t disproportionately hurt anglers who fish off jetties, piers and docks. Those with boats are able to travel farther into the ocean, where there’s a greater chance of finding bigger striper to keep.

“I go out and talk to the people on the street,” Fote said during the meeting. “They don’t have the same opportunity as people in boats.”

The proposals surrounding the bass come decades after a near extinction of the species in the mid-1980s, when the commission enacted a temporary moratorium on the catch.

The draft addendum is open to public comment until Sept. 27 and will be finalized in the fall.

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