I received a number of emails and phone calls recently from anglers wondering if you could still fish for, and keep, striped bass when fishing the waters in the Northumberland Strait. The good news is that, while you can fish for striped bass in the Gulf until the end of September, the bad news is the retention season ended in August and now all stripers caught must be released. The sport fishing season for striped bass in the waters of the Northumberland Strait was closed a number of years ago when population numbers dropped to very low levels. The population has rebounded extremely well and anglers were able to take advantage of a season which opened on May 01.
Striped bass anglers should be aware of the different regulations in place in Nova Scotia as you can continue to keep striped bass in some areas. The season remains open on the Atlantic side of the Province, from Cape North around to the New Brunswick border, including the Bras d’Or Lakes. In this area anglers are permitted to harvest one bass per day which must be a minimum of 68cm (26.8in) long. For the new season in the Strait anglers could keep one bass per day during the period from May 01 until May 15 and again from Aug 02 to Aug 11. There was a slot size limit in place where any fish retained must have a minimum length of 55cm(21.65in) and a maximum of 65 cm(25.59in) measured from the nose to the tip of the tail. Sport fish managers will be reviewing the results of the new season and changes may be made before next year.
The most popular saltwater sport fish in Eastern North America, striped bass are large, robust fish which school in coastal waters, returning to fresh water to spawn. There are two populations of stripers in Nova Scotia. The fish which we find off Pictou County come from a population of bass which spawn in the Miramichi River in New Brunswick. The second population is found on the Atlantic Coast. Those bass spawn in the Shubenacadie and Stewiacke Rivers in May and June.
Female stripers produce up to 100,000 eggs which are released near the surface and hatch in two or three days. Young bass grow rapidly on a diet of plankton and invertebrates such as insect larvae and worms. Later growth is dependent on the availability of fish such as silversides, mackerel and herring. Striped bass in the Northumberland Strait spend the summer feeding off our coast. After spending a few years in our waters they return to the Miramichi to spawn and complete the cycle. Generally speaking stripers in the Gulf do not reach the size of bass found on the Atlantic Coast.
I hear that anglers have been catching some stripers off Toney River and along the shore down to the Causeway. I fished a few times in the Gulf and caught some stripers on the fly but my biggest was about ten inches long. Lots of fun but they will need some time before they will be large enough to keep. My flies were Surf Candies, Lefty’s Deceiver and Dahlberg Divers. The fish aren’t fussy so any streamer, lure or bait should do the trick. This new season is a great opportunity and I congratulate the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for their efforts in bringing this species back, and also giving anglers the opportunity to take advantage of it.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.