NEWPORT NEWS, VA. --- State fishery regulators are asking Virginia's saltwater anglers to vote on how they'd prefer striped bass catches to be regulated this fall. Shorten the season a bit? Reduce the number of fish kept per fishing trip? This is the first time the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is asking anglers to vote in an online poll on proposed fishery regulation changes.
The results of the poll will be given the Commission's board before its Sept. 25 vote on how best to limit the harvest this year of striped bass, also known as rockfish, in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
"This allows our important recreational fishing community to have an easy and direct way of making their preferences known," said VMRC Commissioner Steve Bowman. "No one enjoys limiting the number of rockfish caught or the length of the season, but something needs to be done this year."
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the recreational striped bass harvest last year substantially exceeded an overall catch quota set by fisheries managers. The quotas are established to preserve the long-term health of a fish species by insuring enough fish of breeding age remain uncaught to allow the species to thrive. The striped bass quota for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries last year was set at 1.5 million pounds, but 2.4 million pounds of the fish were caught. That overage of almost 900,000 pounds must be made up in the upcoming striped bass season, a requirement imposed by VMRC regulations. That means VMRC must devise a way to ensure fewer fish are caught in the striped bass season that will run from October 4 into December.
The three options under consideration are:
1) A no-take slot limit of fish between 28 and 34 inches, with a one-fish limit per trip, from Dec. 10 through Dec. 31.
2) A no-take slot limit of fish between 28 and 34 inches, with a one-fish limit per trip, from Dec. 1 through Dec. 31.
3) Closing the season a week early, on Dec. 25 instead of Dec. 31, and instituting a no-take slot limit of fish between 28 and 34 inches while continuing last year's two-fish limit per trip.
The fall season regulations to be changed currently allow anglers to catch up to two-fish a day with a size limit of 18 to 28 inches, but permit one of those two fish to be larger than 34 inches.
Anglers may vote on their preference online by going to VMRC's new "Saltwater Fisherman's Journal" at https://www.vasaltwaterjournal.com. Users must be registered in order to vote in the poll. Registration is easy, and anonymous, and can be done by clicking on "register here" link and filling out the form.
The Saltwater Journal is used by recreational anglers to report the results of their fishing trips, which then are combined and viewable to allow other anglers to see where the big fish are reported to be biting. The online journal is provided as a service to the recreational fishing community and to give fisheries managers a better idea of the size and health of various fish populations.
"We encourage anglers to sign up and vote on the upcoming striped bass regulations," Bowman said. "We welcome their input. We all want to maintain a healthy, prosperous striped bass population this season and for the years to come. The question is how to best accomplish that end."
VMRC is a state regulatory agency that serves as steward of Virginia's marine and aquatic resources, and protectors of its tidal waters.