Striped bass limits changed to 31 inches coastwide

By Rich King
Posted 5/4/23

We are officially in the muddening season. I’m glad it is raining again — my mud was drying up. There are small ponds in all of the fields. I’m waiting to see someone pull over and …

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Striped bass limits changed to 31 inches coastwide


We are officially in the muddening season. I’m glad it is raining again — my mud was drying up. There are small ponds in all of the fields. I’m waiting to see someone pull over and fish the flooded field near my house. You may think that sounds crazy, but I have seen it happen more than once. What would freak me out is if they actually caught something, People see what looks like a pond and they pull over to fish it. I kid you not, you can’t make this up. I’d pay money to be the fly on the wall when they drive past that field when it dries up.

The heavy weather has been carving up the beaches creating some decent surf fishing structure. The replenishment projects will run into the summer and ruin the surf fishing in a few areas. You can’t fish too well in dirty water for summer fish. The big migratory fish will explore stirred up water, the little fish will avoid it. So far, we are just catching northern puffers, striped bass and black drum, plus skates and dogfish for the standard catch throughout the day.

I am asked 50 times a day on social media what is happening with the reservation system for surf fishing. I have no idea and apparently no one in Dover does either. I’d suggest the powers that be in Dover get it together and maybe announce how you plan on enforcing reservations, regulating reservations and all the other factors that are going to happen. I’d also like to know how you are allowing a surf fishing tournament on the first weekend the surf tag reservation program starts. I seem to recall not being allowed to reserve any amount of beach for a tournament in the past.

If parks is basing the reservation limit on the number(s) of vehicles the secretary of DNREC mentioned in a TFFAC meeting — “The vehicle capacity of Delaware State Park drive on beaches is 2,800 to 4,000 vehicles. If we crunch in enough vehicles” — that is a huge difference in numbers. But that tells me if they use the latter of the numbers there won’t be a need to enforce reservations, the beaches will be overcrowded as usual anyway. Until someone is injured or worse out there due to these out of control crowds, nothing is going to change, and mark my words that is going to happen at some point. Odds are heavy it will involve a drunk driver, too.

Anyway, the fishing has been decent despite the weather. The flounder fishing started out slow as usual. Then the water temps dropped from these storms and all but shut down shallow water bites but the fish are feeding. Shallow water meaning the muddy bottoms get warmer in the sun and the fish find these areas to feed. The inland bays and Lewes canal have a lot of shallow water mud flats fishing. We need the sun to warm the mud to get the fish feeding more. Otherwise they are feeding but it is slow action and you have to be patient. The back bays of Chincoteague and now Ocean City, Maryland, are getting more and more active each day for flounder. The inland bays and Delaware bay will be next, if not already.

Striped bass are still moving north and the action has been random on our beaches and Assateague. Fish move along our coast heading north, you just have to be out there. Don’t expect a blitz-style run like we see in Jersey. You have to put in some time and have lines in the water. I’m casting plugs and spoons while I soak bait. Honestly, bait and wait bores me to death, so I start throwing lures, or taking pictures. The fun part is when the bait gets hit at the same time as your spoon, now what? That gets a little tricky — you reel in fast and hope your fishing rig doesn’t get yanked out of the sand spike.

With bluefish, everyone is expecting the monster blitzes of years past and they are not happening anymore. I mean, we now have seriously reduced creel limits, and not because we have a massive biomass of blues out there. The action has been random, spring skinny blues and they are spread from the OBX to New York. Some of the smaller snappers have shown up in some nets around the area. I’m looking forward to that summer bluefish action if we get any this year.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has enacted an emergency order to reduce the striped bass limits to 31 inches coastwide. This will create a slot limit of 28 to 31 inches. I have no idea what traffic light or trigger they hit to create this need. This all happened Tuesday afternoon and they have yet to put out a press release with full details. The ASMFC made July 1, 2023, the deadline for compliance. This has not been made into a new rule yet, just an emergency order, which the ASMFC hasn’t done in a long time. It was also announced this will not affect the Chesapeake Bay trophy season, because why protect the breeders when you are trying to protect the spawning stocks?

For years, I have asked Delaware to ask the ASMFC to let us have a year-round slot season like the Chesapeake. These are mostly male fish and will not put as much of a dent on the biomass. They are healthier to eat, since they haven’t been marinating in our polluted waters that long. We could catch the little fish and leave the big breeders alone. What many never seem to realize is the mortality of catch and release is set at 10% but it is much higher than that. If you are a great angler, the chances of the fish surviving are usually greater (than 10%). If you are a novice angler, many more fish are going to perish from poor handling techniques (around 40%). The newer anglers outnumber the seasoned anglers. If you want your fish to survive with the best chances, release the fish in the water — that’s the best technique for a fish’s survival.

Weakfish are showing up in the Delaware Bay in decent sizes, just not numbers. Random catch action for anglers, but I have seen some large weakfish in nets upwards of eight pounds. I love eating weakfish — we need that population to bounce back. They are so much better than striped bass, which is just a bland fish you can make taste like anything. That’s one reason it is such a popular food fish with restaurants.

Crabbing for this time of year has been OK, just slow due to water temperatures. The inland bays are already dotted with buoys. We are using blue crabs for bait and you should, too. The Fishbites blue crab formula is catching fish now, too. That will increase with warmer water temperatures.

Winter clamming season ended recently but the regular clamming areas are producing well. ummer crowds haven’t made it here yet to reduce those numbers.

Get outside and enjoy the spring. The pollening was out of control until the rain. Now I can breathe better and move about the outdoors. That will change as the rain subsides and the pine trees explode.

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