The retention season for striped bass opened yesterday and anglers in Pictou County will have expanded opportunities available to them this season with a longer season and a change in size limits for this species.
The fishery for this species was closed a number of years ago when population numbers dropped to very low levels. Thanks to management measures brought in by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans the population has rebounded extremely well and anglers will be able to take advantage of a retention season which opened on Aug. 1 and will run until Aug 21. There will be another season from Sept 24 until Sept 30. The remainder of the time all striped bass caught must be released. The new size limit also opens up the size of bass which anglers can retain.
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 our shores 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.
Striped bass anglers should be aware of the different regulations in place for these two populations. On the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia, from Cape North around to the New Brunswick border, including the Bras d’Or Lakes, anglers are permitted to harvest one bass per day which must be a minimum of 68cm long. For our new season anglers will be able to keep one bass per day during the open seasons. The new slot size limit in place for this year states that any fish retained must have a minimum length of 50 cm and a maximum of 65 cm measured from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.
Anglers who are interested in assisting in managing this fishery can contribute by keeping angler diaries on their fishing trips. Other regulations in place for this new season limit angling to two hours before sunrise to two hours after sunset. Also, a regulation for this season requires anglers to use non-offset circle hooks when fishing striped bass with bait. These hooks are easier to remove and generally hook the fish in the jaw. 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.