Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists survey and tag striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay as part of the annual survey of the population. Photo by Stephen Badger
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is proposing changes for the Chesapeake Bay summer-fall striped bass season. Due to the timing of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) approval process, some changes will be made by public notice. Measures that require regulatory changes have been submitted to the Maryland General Assembly Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR). The combination of the public notice and these proposed regulatory actions ensure Maryland’s compliance with the ASFMC directive to meet a coast-wide conservation target.
The proposal calls for the 2020 summer-fall season in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries to be open May 16 through Aug. 15, and Sept. 1 through Dec. 10. Anglers would be able to keep one striped bass per person, per day, with a minimum size of 19 inches. The season would be closed on all other dates. During the closure period from Aug. 16 through Aug. 31, anglers will be prohibited from targeting striped bass, which includes catch-and-release, charter boats and commercial hook-and-line fishing. During a chartered fishing trip, the captain or mate would not be permitted to land or possess striped bass for personal consumption.
The 2018 benchmark stock assessment for striped bass indicated declines, so the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has determined that conservation measures are needed for the 2020 fishing season to reduce the amount of striped bass being removed. This includes dead discards, which are fish that die after being caught and returned to the water.
Maryland’s conservation options as presented to and approved by ASFMC have been publicly available since late fall, and the department heard commentary from various sectors. More than 20 stakeholder meetings and public information sessions were held. Prior to submitting the regulations to AELR, Maryland held a public comment period which ended March 18.
With the submission of the proposal, AELR will now conduct a fiscal and legal review. If approved, the regulations will be published in the Maryland Register May 8, and another public comment period will be open from May 8 until June 8, 2020.
A public information session to discuss these changes and get feedback from stakeholders will be held via webinar on May 11, 2020.
The proposed season dates are valid only until the end of the 2020 season. At the end of the 2020 season, fishery managers and scientists will review the effectiveness of these measures based on observations and data and may revise the regulations accordingly.