NJ Bluefish and Striper
Regulations Set

by Paul Haertel
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2020 Newsletter)

The highly anticipated New Jersey Marine Council Meeting that decided the fate of our stripers and our striper fishermen was held on 2/13/20. Over a hundred passionate striper fishermen filled the room at the municipal building in Manahawkin to capacity, while many more waited in the hallway or even outside hoping to get in. Many others left after learning they could not get in.

First up was bluefish and after the council accepted comments from people inside the room, they did allow people from outside to come in one-by-one and give their comments. The council’s hands were tied by mandates from the ASMFC and MAFMC so there were not many options to choose from. Ultimately, the council opted for a regulation of 3 fish per person for private sector and a 5-fish per person for the for-hire sector. There will be no size limit or seasonal closure.

Next up was striped bass and again due to a mandate from the ASMFC, there were only two options that our council could consider. One was for one striper at 28” to 35” which would have resulted in a 43% predicted reduction. This option appealed to those who favored the most stringent regulations possible with hope that it would restore our striper stocks sooner. The other option was for one striper at 28”-38” that would result in about a 20% predicted reduction but still more of a cut than the 18% that was mandated. This option appealed to those who wanted to keep fish and to those who felt it would not be fair to NJ to have to take a cut of 43% while other states were taking far less of a cut. Though we were limited to only these two options, special thanks to DEP Asst. Commissioner Ray Bukowski and Asst. Director of Marine Fisheries Joe Cimino and their staff for developing and bringing to the table options that appealed to each user group.

There was also a suite of options for our bonus program. All options included one fish per person with a size limit of 24”-28’ while some also included either 500 or 1000 trophy tags for fish over 43”. There was also a choice as to whether to begin the bonus season on 5/15 or 9/1.

Everyone who was there, whether they were inside and outside the room, was given the opportunity to voice their opinion on which option they preferred. There were varying opinions from those who spoke and there was not a clear consensus. For instance, some people spoke in favor of being able to keep a large bass while others asked for the bonus program to be suspended. Ultimately, the council voted in favor of the option that was recommended by the advisory committee. Therefore, our regulations for this year will be one fish from 28” to less than 38” and those with a bonus tag will be able to keep one fish from 24" to less than 28". Additionally, the bonus program will begin on 5/15 rather than 9/1. It will run through 12/31. Tags are not yet available but we will keep you posted.

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