Striped bass numbers have been increasing in our waters in recent years and, along with greater numbers of bass, there has also been an increase in the number of people fishing for them.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans issued a press release recently on the striped bass regulations for this season and it contained good news for anglers. This year striped bass anglers fishing in the Gulf will have expanded opportunities available to them with an increased bag limit. In 2018 the tidal water season for stripers will run from April 15 until the end of October and you are now permitted to keep three bass every day of the fishing season.
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 this increased abundance.
Similar to 2017 the following management measures will also apply during the 2018 striped bass recreational fishery:
– The size window for the retention fishery is established at a minimum length of 50 cm (20 in.) and a maximum length of 65 cm (26 in). The length is measured in a straight line from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail (total length).
– Angling activities begins two hours before sunrise and ends two hours after sunset of each day.
– The use of a non-offset barbless circle hook is mandatory when bait is used while fishing for striped bass in tidal waters.
The most popular saltwater sport fish in Eastern North America, striped bass are large, robust fish that school in coastal waters, returning to fresh water to spawn. There are two populations of stripers in Nova Scotia. The fish we find off our shores come from a population of bass that 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. Anglers fishing striped bass on the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia should be aware of the regulations for that area which permit anglers to take one bass a day with a maximum length of 68 cm.
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.
While the booming numbers of striped bass in the Gulf has been welcomed by many it has also prompted calls of concern. DFO scientists say the spawning population tripled between 2016 and 2017 and is now estimated at one million fish, a 100-fold increase from the 1990s. In addition to the population rebound, tagged striped bass from the Gulf were recovered from Rimouski, Que., north to Labrador for the first time in 2017. Atlantic salmon researchers wonder what an increase in striped bass numbers will mean for Atlantic salmon, which are already under threat from habitat loss, global warming and high mortality at sea.
Striped bass were caught off Labrador this winter in areas where they have never been seen before and fisheries managers are concerned what impact the expanding numbers of this large predator may have on local fish stocks including cod and lobster.
I caught one striped bass last season which was large enough to keep and it was delicious. The increased bag limits are a great opportunity to fish for this species and I hope local anglers get a chance to take advantage of it this season.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.