DEC Changes 2020 Striped Bass Fishing Regs: 36+ In. Cows Go Back

Erik Peterson with cow striped bass
"Cow" stripers like this are no longer permitted to keep. Fisherman: Erik Peterson

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) sent out an email Tuesday announcing their adoption of new Atlantic striped bass fishing regulations, which take effect immediately for the recreational and commercial sectors. The most significant change limits fish size to 35 inches. The days of keeping super cow bass are, at least for now, over.

Catching such beasts isn’t an everyday occurrence for most, but striped bass are regularly landed in excess of 36 inches. The world record striper—caught by Greg Myerson of N. Branford, CT on August 5, 2011—was 54″ long and 81.88 pounds, so these changes will affect the sporting community and their walls of mounted trophy fish.

The open seasons for striped bass in all New York waters have not changed.

According to the DEC, these regulations were put in place to cut state commercial and recreational harvests by 18 percent as required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which manages the Atlantic Coast-wide striped bass harvest. Striped bass are an incredibly popular fish and attract hundreds of fishermen to the East End, particularly Montauk during the fall “blitz,” but the ASMFC found they are being overfished and took steps to curb these numbers.

To address the overfishing, ASMFC initiated and—on October 30 2019—approved Addendum VI to Amendment 6 of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Striped Bass to “reduce harvest, end overfishing and bring fishing mortality to the target level in 2020.” NY State presented several options and sought stakeholder input last year before adopting the fishing regulation changes to reflect ASMFC’s Addendum measures and remain in accordance with the FMP.

Addendum VI also orders all states to require the use of circle hooks when fishing with bait for the 2021 striped bass fishing season. The DEC notes that catch and release practices contribute significantly to overall fishing mortality, and circle hooks effectively reduce the likelihood of mortal wounds to striped bass caught recreationally. Addendum VI explains that 90% of striped bass caught recreationally are released alive, but an estimated 9% of those fish die as a result of being caught.

The circle hooks rule doesn’t go into effect until next year, but the DEC is encouraging anglers to start using circle hooks immediately when using bait.

Recreational striped bass season begins locally (in marine waters) next Wednesday, April 15. The Hudson River and its tributaries season started on April 1.

Striped bass illustration from ASMFC Addendum VI
Striped bass illustration from ASMFC Addendum VI

2020 Striped Bass Recreational Regulations:

In Marine Waters:
Slot Size Limit: 28–35” total length (No fish smaller than 28” or greater than 35” may be kept.)
Season Date: April 15–December 15
Daily Possession Limit: 1 fish per angler

Hudson River and Tributaries:
Slot size limit: 18–28” total length (No fish smaller than 18” or greater than 28” may be kept.)
Season date: April 1–November 30
Daily Possession Limit: 1 fish per angler

Delaware River and Its West Branch Bordering Pennsylvania:
Slot Size Limit: 28–35” total length (No fish smaller than 28” or greater than 35” may be kept.)
Season Date: All year
Daily Possession Limit: 1 fish per angler

2020 Striped Bass Commercial Regulations:
Slot size limit: 26–38” total length (No fish smaller than 26” or greater than 38” may be kept.)
Season date: May 15–December 15
Note: Commercial harvest of striped bass is limited only to striped bass permit holders.

The DEC asks anglers to check their recreational saltwater fishing regulations for the most up-to-date information before going fishing, and to enroll in the annual no-fee Recreational Marine Fishing Registry before going fishing for striped bass or other “migratory fish of the sea” in New York’s Marine and Coastal District waters. Anglers can enroll for the registry online here, or by calling 1-866-933-2257. License issuing agent locations are normally available as well, but are closed during the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis.

On the subject of the pandemic, social distancing still applies when fishing. The DEC recommends avoiding busy waters and following the guidelines on the DEC website about fishing responsibly in NY State. If an angler arrives at a parking lot and there are several cars, they should consider going to another parking lot. If an angler is fishing upstream, they should fish downstream of the other angler or consider fishing another day. Anglers fishing from boats should be able to maintain at least six feet of distance between one another. For more information about the benefits of being outdoors safely and responsibly, go to DEC’s website.

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