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Jan 17, 2017 10:50 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Striped Bass Had It Tough In 2016, Fluke Fishermen Might In 2017

Carole Williams with the striped marlin she caught off Kona, Hawaii last weekend. Jim Williams
Jan 17, 2017 11:10 AM

Bad news abounds in the fisheries management world these days. First came word that the 2016 striped bass spawn was one of the worst in decades, then comes the apparent slashing of the fluke quotas for next year.In October the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced that the 2016 “recruitment” of young-of-the-year striped bass was among the worst they have recorded since the 1950s.

The surveys, taken at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, where the majority of striped bass are born, showed an average of just 2.2 young-of-the-year striped bass per sample, compared to the 30 to 50 per sample average in boom years.

This is not good news, but it is also not entirely shocking. A relatively warm winter followed by a spring with relatively low precipitation create conditions that are not favorable to striped bass spawning success.

It’s the second abysmal recruitment we’ve seen in the last five years, with 2012 being the worst recruitment year on record. Interestingly, if not shockingly, those two years of failure were interspersed with two of the best years of recruitment ever recorded, in 2011 and 2015.

The accuracy of the recruitment estimates was borne out on the beaches of the Northeast this year as that 2011 year class—now fish in the 16- to 22-inch range—flooded into the surf and waters of Block Island Sound.

So, as usual, Mother Nature is showing her flexibility, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see state fisheries managers looking to give her another boost by dialing back harvest levels a tiny bit more in the next couple of years. I don’t know many fishermen who would have a problem with that.

Fluke fishermen are going to get a bit more than a tiny sting next year it seems. Coastwide the quota for fluke is set to be slashed by about 30 percent.

Since New York and New Jersey have been identified as having “overfished” their allotted portion of the quota, it’s a pretty safe bet that we’re going to be seeing cuts to our limits. That probably will mean one fewer fish than the four-fish limit we’ve had for several years now, but with a shorter season and possibly a higher minimum size.

We should count ourselves lucky and not complain a squeak if we can get a mid-May to Labor Day season, and a three-fish creel. Stay tuned.

Codfishing has been pretty decent and most local party boats are still sailing for the wrecks when the weather allows. Good thing, too, because the waterfowl hunting has been a major snoozer in a lot of areas.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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