It was a packed house with standing room only that spilled into the lobby at the Stafford Municipal Building during Thursday evening’s public meeting with the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council.  Striped bass, bluefish and fluke were the topics. It’s all over but the shouting and there won’t be much of that as the impending restrictions on striped bass and bluefish expected for 2020 were well-publicized for months in advance.

Fluke anglers escaped further strangulation, and it will be the same three fish at a minimum of 18-inches, two fish at a minimum of 16-inches from the sands the length of Island Beach State Park, and three fish at 17-inches for Delaware Bay.

Photo by Tom P

The flattie season kicks off May 22, the Friday of the Memorial Day weekend.

No movement on the proposed, now approved, regulation for blues: a three fish limit for the private sector, and a five fish limit for those fishing from “for hire” party boats and charter boats. There are no minimum size restrictions and the season will be open year-round.

When the 2020 striped bass season kicks off March 1,  it will be one fish from 28-inches to less than 38-inches. (This is based on final review by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s technical review committee, but it’s a 99.9% “go”.). The Striped Bass Bonus Program will start May 15 instead of September 1, with the same one bass from 24-inches to less than 28-inches bag limit. Bonus tag applications will be online at www.njfishandwildlife.com. You must re-apply this year even if you had a tag in 2018.

There will no doubt be grumbling from the cow hunters, but that’s to be expected as they’ll be forced to look for smaller fish if they intend to put any in the box.  Sure, they can catch stripers beyond the 38-inch limit, but they must be immediately released. So much for the angler catching the bass of a lifetime or one that is deeply hooked and whose survival is in serious doubt. Away it will go to the bottom to be a crab feast.

No doubt catch-and-release mortality is factored when ultimately deciding regulations (ditto fluke, sea bass, tog, etc.) and it’s all part of the management equation.

Photo by Tom P
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