After recent stock projections were worse than expected, the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board is seeking angler input as it gauges the adjustments necessary to meet the rebuilding timeline for the striped bass stock.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering adjusting management measures for the recreational and commercial Atlantic striped bass fishery, in order to rebuild the stock to its biomass target by 2029. As part of the process, recreational anglers will continue to have a chance to let managers know they care about the future of striped bass.
In May 2023, the ASMFC Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board initiated the development of a Draft Addendum II to Amendment 7 – a 2022 overhaul to the Atlantic striped bass management plan – after revised stock rebuilding projections showed that the chance of rebuilding the striper stock by 2029 has dropped from 97% to 15%, due to increased fishing mortality rates during the 2022 season. The draft addendum additionally proposes options for the Board to respond to stock assessment updates more quickly, if future projections indicate that the stock is not expected to be rebuilt by 2029.
Unfortunately, catch reductions in recent years have proven insufficient to rebuild the striped bass stock, and the fishery remains in decline. The Board already took emergency action this season to implement a 31” maximum fish size restriction to protect spawning-size adults. Based on the revised stock projections, the potential management options laid out in the draft addendum are aimed to build upon that action.
Current stock projections indicate that a 14.5% reduction in total striped bass removals in 2024 is necessary to prevent further decline. This reduction could be accomplished through a variety of management actions, including via different combinations of bag and size limit options for the ocean and Chesapeake Bay recreational fisheries, and various commercial quota reduction options. The TRCP and its partners have been collaborating and closely monitoring the situation to keep anglers informed on the various management options that remain on the table. Click here to read an informational document which details our partnership’s preferred options and gives additional context to each section of the draft addendum.
What Anglers Can Do
As the 2029 deadline to rebuild the coastwide stock approaches, it’s critical to remember that every one of us can do our part for striped bass. Throughout this process, it is imperative to let your voice be heard, to let managers know that you and the entire recreational community care about the future of striped bass – as well as menhaden and other forage fish species they depend on – and recognize that near-term sacrifice is necessary to ensure a robust striped bass fishery, for the coming years and our next generation.
We strongly encourage recreational anglers to provide input on striped bass management by attending state public hearings, either in-person or virtually, or by providing emailed or written comments. The ASMFC Draft Addendum II to Amendment 7 document can be found here, and the public hearing schedule can be found here. Each management action taken now, informed by angler input, lays the groundwork for the recovery of this important species.
Just as important as making your voice heard are the actions you take on the water, to support the conservation of striped bass. Know the rules, and minimize your handling of fish – especially those above the slot limit – to get them back in the water as safely and quickly as possible.
The next striped bass stock assessment is scheduled to be published in fall 2024, and will include fishing data through the 2023 season. This information will tell anglers and managers whether striped bass have been responding positively to past management actions, and whether any new measures are needed to reduce fishing mortality.
Louisiana Issues Proposed Regulations to Protect Redfish, Conserve Habitat from Industrial Menhaden Fishery
In a major conservation win, the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission adopted a Notice of Intent late last week to create a minimum 1-mile coastwide buffer prohibiting commercial netting of Gulf menhaden and increasing fish spill penalties
Louisiana’s redfish – and anglers seeking them – may no longer be competing with the Gulf’s industrial menhaden fishery in nearshore areas, thanks to a Notice of Intent (NOI) adopted by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission on October 5.
Acting in response to a series of net spills by two industrial pogie boat operators in September near Holly and Rutherford beaches, which resulted in an estimated 850,000 menhaden and hundreds of redfish killed, the commission issued an NOI establishing a minimum 1-mile coastwide buffer for the fishery in the state, with a 3-mile buffer required between Holly and Rutherford beaches. The buffer would widen an existing quarter-mile-wide area that is off limits to industrial pogie boats, which was established this season. The NOI also details more stringent penalties and reporting requirements for future net spills.
As part of the required process for regulatory change in Louisiana, the NOI will be open for further public comment and must still pass through state House and Senate Natural Resources Committee review before being finalized in early 2024.
Gulf menhaden, also known as pogies, provide a critical food source for iconic Louisiana species like redfish and speckled trout. However, nearly 1 billion pounds of pogies are harvested by the industrial pogie fishery each year, mainly from Louisiana waters. To date, pogie boats have been allowed to fish shallows closer than 500 yards from Louisiana’s shorelines, stirring up sediment with their massive seine nets and impacting both fragile coastal habitats and iconic sportfish populations. Of most concern to anglers have been impacts to redfish, which spawn and congregate in these areas.
“This represents a significant step forward in the conservation and management of Louisiana’s fisheries,” says Chris Macaluso, director of the Center for Marine Fisheries for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission thankfully has recognized that the concerns of anglers and conservation advocates are valid, and that Louisiana’s nearshore habitats need protection from foreign-owned, industrial pogie fishing boats. This is a big win for redfish, speckled trout, mackerel, dolphins, brown pelicans, and a host of other fish and wildlife, and a win for those who appreciate and enjoy Louisiana’s coast.”
“We thank the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission for taking this positive step towards protecting our fragile coastlines and the fish and wildlife that live there,” says David Cresson, executive director and CEO for the Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana. “The action of the commissioners last week, and many Louisiana legislators who encouraged that action, was a tremendous show of leadership. Now it is critical that we stay vigilant and focused as the NOI continues through the process and these much-needed regulations are finalized.”
Under the commission’s leadership, the Louisiana fishery could soon join the ranks of the other Gulf states who have expanded menhaden conservation regulations. While recreational fishing and conservation groups are still intent on establishing a scientifically based catch limit on menhaden in the Gulf of Mexico, they collectively recognize last week’s vote by the commission as a landmark positive step forward to protect redfish and the state’s coastal environment.
“The hundreds of small business owners that make up the Louisiana Charter Boat Association applaud the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for recommending stronger menhaden regulations, and we commend the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission for affirming these recommendations. While more work remains to ensure that this Notice of Intent becomes law, today’s vote was a monumental step in the right direction,” says Richard Fischer, executive director for the Louisiana Charter Boat Association. “Years of teamwork from several organizations led to this moment, and today’s result would not have been possible without our dedicated and coordinated efforts. Thank you so much to every member of our coalition that played a role in making today’s vote happen.”
“Menhaden are a key prey species for many sportfish, including tarpon. Bonefish & Tarpon Trust appreciates the recent steps by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to expand protections for menhaden and to protect sensitive coastal habitats,” says Kellie Ralston, vice president for conservation and public policy for the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. “We look forward to continuing to work with LDWF and our conservation partners to ensure long-term sustainability of the Louisiana menhaden fishery.”
“Louisiana’s anglers and recreational fishing businesses depend on healthy habitats and fish populations,” says Martha Guyas, Southeast fisheries policy director for the American Sportfishing Association. “ASA thanks the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission for taking this important step toward reducing impacts to coastal resources from the industrial menhaden fishery.”
“This is great news for menhaden, the recreational anglers of Louisiana, and the local businesses they support,” says Brett Fitzgerald, executive director for the Angler Action Foundation. “The door is now open to focus on and further necessary protections for our gamefish and their forage fish throughout the region. Many thanks to all who worked for so long on this important issue.”
Every Angler Can Help Control Aquatic Invasive Species
Professional fisherman Ish Monroe shares his personal perspective and tips to mitigate damage to America’s fisheries from non-native threats.
I started fishing tournaments when I was 14 years old. I had a passion for competing and wanted to make it my living. In 1997, when I was 22, Bassmaster came out West and I qualified for their pro bass fishing tour. It was right then that I put everything I owned into storage and never looked back.
As a pro angler for almost the last three decades, I’ve met a lot of great people, and heard from parents how much it meant to their children to see someone with a similar look and background in this sport.
Because fishing is not only my livelihood, but my passion (I love to saltwater fish for fun, and just got back from an offshore tuna fishing excursion), I pay attention to threats to angling in America. One of the biggest, least understood, and most difficult to address threats arrived in this country a long time ago. I’m talking about aquatic invasive species (AIS).
AIS Are Everywhere
In America, AIS issues range from well-known Asian carp and zebra mussels in the Midwest to lake-choking hydrilla out West, and from sunlight-blocking water hyacinth down South to northern snakeheads and blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay. If you’re a recreational angler, and especially if you own a boat, there’s a very good chance you’ve already encountered some of these aquatic invasives.
You may know what I’m talking about – you’re in a state that is dealing with zebra mussels or quagga mussels, and you need to pull your drain plugs and be sure livewells are totally dry before you go to another body of water to fish. In California, where I’m from, if you don’t follow these procedures your boat goes into quarantine. But this initiative is critical to preventing further spread of these mussels.
AIS problems represent a huge hassle for anglers and aren’t something we can ignore. If unaddressed, the problems only get worse. Invasive mussels will eventually clog up drinking water or irrigation pipes. Snakeheads will eat everything, from the fish we catch to the prey items in their diets. Invasive vegetation will degrade the habitat of native fish.
And then there are Asian carp.
These invasives, which come in multiple species, including silver and bighead carp, remove plankton that normally provide forage to native bait species. Also, when the bass are in a spawning area, the carp can ruin the beds they’re spawning on with their gluttonous feeding habits.
These carp also leap out of the water when they’re agitated, and I’ve had them fly right into my boat. Imagine going down the lake at 60 miles per hour and having one jump up in front of you. People actually get hospitalized for this.
Invasives Cost Billions of Dollars, Hurt Communities
Maybe the biggest threat aquatic invasives present is the financial burden they put on federal and local economies. Our federal government alone spends an estimated $2.3 billion annually to prevent, control, and eradicate domestic AIS issues. In fact, AIS cause $100 billion worth of damage per year in the U.S.
Those are only big-picture costs. Fishing supports communities, and sometimes the real damage from invasives occurs at a more local level. When AIS take over an area, the fishing gets bad. When fishing gets bad, people stop fishing. Entire communities suffer.
The only good news about the economic damage AIS problems cause is that it has forced politicians and other decision-makers to take notice. People won’t get behind AIS battles unless the economics and dollars are there.
Management & Control of Invasives
Clearly there’s good reason to want to control, or at least mitigate the damage from, aquatic invasives. The best option is to never allow an exotic species to move into a body of water in the first place. We all play a part in preventing future spread.
Once AIS establish themselves, full eradication is often the ideal solution, even though in most cases it’s not financially feasible or practical to implement. Species like zebra and quagga mussels, and fish like freshwater Asian carp and lionfish in our oceans, offer little benefit to North American environments. If possible, we want to remove them. That’s much easier said than done, however. The best thing is to never allow invasives to gain a foothold in a waterway in the first place.
Myself and other pro anglers on the circuit, along with our sponsors, are already doing our part to help deal with AIS issues. Bassmaster’s Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) offers great information to pro anglers on how to reduce the spread of invasives, and also is now officially part of the national Clean Drain Dry Initiative. And Yamaha Rightwaters, the number-one program where I work on conservation issues, does more than just waterway clean-ups, like the Tennessee River Beautiful effort I’m involved with. Among the program’s initiatives is a national AIS Commission convened with partners like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Diverse AIS Commission Sets Priorities
In 2021, the TRCP worked with Yamaha Rightwaters and other partners to form an AIS commission to improve the prevention, control, and mitigation of aquatic invasives. I chose to be on the commission because I see where things are going with tournament bass fishing, and if I don’t do something to help it could eventually go away.
It was a difficult but great process to try and wrap our minds around such a big issue. Among our recommendations, which were finalized in 2023, were the need to modernize federal law and policy, increase targeted federal funding, maintain access to water for anglers, and increase public education and engagement.
And that’s where you and other anglers come in. Please help do your part to help prevent further AIS spread, to benefit fish populations and our collective angling experiences.
How You Can Help Stop the Spread of Invasives:
Follow the “Clean, Drain, Dry” rule. Don’t’ transfer water from one place to another.
Be educated about AIS in your area. Know what you should or shouldn’t do.
Get involved. Volunteer, follow an advocacy like Yamaha Right Waters, and let your elected officials know you expect them to address AIS issues.
Consider organizing or entering a competition that focuses on AIS removals (and have fun in the process).
Ishama “Ish” Monroe is a professional bass fisherman with nine career wins, five of them being on the B.A.S.S. tour. He has earned $2.4 million in lifetime prize winnings. Sponsored by Yamaha Motor, Bass Pro Shops, Simms Fishing, Ranger Boats, and other big names in the angling industry, he is based in northern California but competes and volunteers nationally.
Learn more about the AIS Commission and its recommendations here.
Interactive Map Shows PA Streams Lacking the Conservation They Deserve
Explore the waterways that qualify for High Quality and Exceptional Value status but have been backlogged at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
If you’ve been following the TRCP for a while, you’ve likely seen us call for Pennsylvania anglers to take action in support of upgrading conservation safeguards that the PA Fish and Boat Commission can provide to our best trout streams. In this process, the commission opens a public comment period every three months and anglers are outspoken in their support of bestowing Wild Trout and Class A Wild Trout stream status where waterways are eligible.
Similarly, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection develops water quality standards designed to safeguard PA streams, rivers, and lakes and give the highest possible protections to our best waters. The agency designates qualified waters as High Quality or Exceptional Value to protect and maintain clean water where it already exists.
Unfortunately, a lengthy list of PA’s top wild trout streams qualify for the highest conservation safeguards at the DEP, but the agency has failed to implement these protections. And our trout streams have waited long enough.
Explore the map to see which streams in the Delaware River watershed are currently backlogged and pending designation by the DEP.
How Did So Many Streams Get Backlogged for Designation?
Waterways can be recommended for upgraded status by the DEP, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, or the public. After streams are proposed for additional designation, an arduous assessment by the DEP then follows. In fact, the evaluation of High Quality and Exceptional Value streams often represents years, if not decades, of work and detailed water surveys.
Even after this thorough process, though, some streams have not yet been designated. (See streams marked “Qualifies for Conservation” on the map.)
Many waters being considered right now are already recognized as wild trout waters and several are recognized as Class A wild trout waters by PFBC. (See streams marked “Recommended for Conservation” on the map.)
This means that not only do these waters sustain naturally reproducing populations of trout, but several of them are among the best in the state. These waters deserve top conservation safeguards, according to one state agency, but they await assessment and designation by the other. This has resulted in a lengthy backlog and delay in commonsense protections.
Why Is It Important to Clear the Backlog of Stream Designations?
Clearing the backlog is particularly important to our state’s $58-billion outdoor recreation economy right now. These additional protections are critical to helping the state manage and protect fish populations, especially as demands on water resources continue to increase. When you consider that roughly 40 percent of streams across the state are NOT suitable for fishing, swimming, and/or drinking water, according to the DEP, it makes sense to safeguard the exceptional waterways that already meet top standards and support outdoor recreation that drives our economy.
The state just broke ground on the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion—America’s largest and most expensive habitat restoration project to date—to breathe life back into a critical Gulf Shore basin and promote long-term fishery health.
The first time I launched a boat out of Empire, La., along the Mississippi River south of New Orleans, I had just graduated from high school in 1994.
I had spent a lot of time, to that point, fishing across Louisiana’s coast, from Delacroix, east of New Orleans, to Dularge in western Terrebonne Parish, but I never had the opportunity to traverse the speckled trout and redfish paradise of the eastern Barataria Basin with its seemingly endless maze of bayous, marsh ponds, lakes, and bays between our launching spot and the Gulf of Mexico.
About a decade later, those bayous, lakes, and bays were either gone or almost totally unrecognizable, laid to waste by Hurricane Katrina’s unprecedented storm surge and land-eating ferocity. Other powerful hurricanes like Gustav, Ike, Laura, Delta, and especially 2021’s Ida, which washed away more than 100 square miles of coastal wetlands, have gouged and gashed the Barataria Basin in the 18 years since Katrina. These, along with nature’s consistent, relentless attacks and effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, have further altered the basin.
What was once eight miles of marsh between Empire and the Gulf is now open water dotted with pilings and concrete riprap where old fishing camps and natural gas canals used to be. The Barataria Basin was 700 square miles of varying coastal marshes, swamps, bays, and islands from the west bank of the river to Bayou Lafourche in 1900. More than 430 square miles of that have vanished in the last century.
On August 10, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, federal partners, and hundreds of Louisianans gathered just north of Empire to break ground on the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, a project designed to breathe life back into the Barataria Basin by reconnecting the Mississippi River to the marshes, bayous, islands, and ponds it originally built.
It is America’s largest, most ambitious, and most expensive habitat restoration project to date, designed to move as much as 75,000 cubic feet of sediment-laden water per second through a gate on the Mississippi River levee and a two-mile conveyance channel to mimic the connection that once existed between the river and its delta. The price tag is estimated at an astonishing $2.9 billion, almost all covered by penalties levied against BP and others for damages caused by the 2010 oil disaster including $660 million for construction from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. Optimistically, the project is set for completion by 2028.
Thousands of years of annual floods and consistent connections between the river and the basin immediately to its west built what was once one of the world’s most productive fishery and waterfowl wintering grounds. But since that connection was cut off, beginning initially in the late 19th century to straight-line the river’s channel for ease of navigation and with levees built to control flooding, Barataria has been sinking and eroding faster than any other coastal basin in the world.
Wetland scientists, engineers, and fish and wildlife biologists have been predicting the basin’s eventual demise since the late 1800s because of efforts to disconnect the river from dozens of outlets south and west of New Orleans. Even back then, with a seemingly inexhaustible expanse of wetlands and barrier islands still present, there was an appreciation that removing the land-building sediment and the life-giving water and nutrients meant eventually the coastal habitat would vanish, taking away the fisheries and wildlife production and natural protection for coastal communities. However, the prediction was that the region and nation would both benefit so greatly from consistent navigation and flood control it would undoubtedly re-invest in the ecosystem at some point.
It took numerous devastating hurricanes, the worst oil spill in the country’s history, and the resulting fines, the Gulf lapping at the doorstep of New Orleans’ West Bank, more than 50 years of discussion, and the unweaving of bureaucracies and complex environmental laws and policies for that prediction to come true. While CPRA, federal agencies, and parish governments have invested billions in important marsh creation, ridge and barrier island restoration, and hurricane protection over the last four decades, none of those projects truly addressed the fundamental cause of the land loss like the Mid-Barataria diversion is designed to do.
While valuable, dredge-created barrier island and marsh restoration projects begin subsiding and eroding as soon as the project is finished. They are only built to withstand, at most, three decades of sinking, winds, and waves. Mid-Barataria, on the other hand, is designed for longevity as it will mimic the annual sediment slugs and wetland-sustaining water and nutrients that built the basin prior to straight-jacketing levees and jetties.
Certainly, reintroducing freshwater and sediment will change local fisheries. The Barataria Basin will become more like unlevied areas east of the river and to the west where the Atchafalaya River’s annual spring floods inundate coastal wetlands with water and sediment. While those changes have drawn harsh criticisms from commercial and even some recreational fishers, including the threat of lawsuits to try and stop the project, the narrative used by opponents that Mid-Barataria will mean the end of catching speckled trout, redfish, shrimp, crabs, and other species in the basin is simply not true. If the Barataria is to have any chance in the future of producing and sustaining the harvest of all those species, the Mississippi River must be re-connected, and the habitat rebuilt.
While the politics and the bureaucracy of diversions is complicated, the biological equation describing what’s happening in the basin is relatively easy to explain. The Mississippi River, when connected to the basin, regularly delivered sediment, water, and nutrients. That consistent engagement created a rich environment perfect for innumerable fish and animals to thrive in, but with seasonal changes based on how much freshwater was in the system. When the connection between river and marsh was cut off, the nutrients continued to leach out and feed the system as the wetlands degraded. Fisheries production exploded, but a timer had been set for eventual collapse of productivity while saltwater overtook and killed brackish and fresh marshland and swamp. At some point, there simply wouldn’t be enough marsh left to degrade.
Collapse is where we are now. Over the last 40-plus years of fishing the Barataria Basin, I can look back at too many days to count where friends and I caught trout and redfish until we didn’t want to cast any more. Literally hundreds of fish in a day. A two-person limit of 60 trout and redfish on ice by 8 a.m. wasn’t unusual. Fishing un-rivaled by anywhere in the country, the best place to catch a redfish in the world.
Until Katrina, unfortunately, we took for granted that it would always be like that. Louisiana’s current, ongoing, heated discussions over reducing trout and redfish creel limits because of productivity loss have their origins in devastating habitat loss. We just don’t have the fish we once did.
In the wake of Hurricane Ida, the Barataria Basin northeast of Grand Isle was unrecognizable. Miles and miles of marsh washed away. Communities 40 miles from the Gulf were covered in fetid mud from dying swamps, leaving residents to question how much of this loss and devastation could have been avoided if the projects to reconnect the river and sustain wetlands had been built 30 or 40 years ago instead of debated and dismissed as too costly. The longer these types of projects sit tangled in bureaucratic morass, the more habitat is lost as the costs skyrocket.
The Mid-Barataria Diversion gives Louisianans like me an opportunity to think positively about the future of our coast. Certainly, it will change the approaches we take to fishing the Barataria Basin. But it will give us a chance to experience a basin that is growing and an opportunity to see new land, gain new shorelines to cast to, and new ponds and grass beds to sustain a diverse fishery. For me, it’s a welcome change from the constant disappointment of knowing each year more and more of my home state will be lost to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the best chance we have.
Groundbreaking photo at top courtesy of Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.