What Striped Bass Don’t Eat Causes a Stir
Tube rig gear is a focus of study as the striped bass management attempts to determine if circle hooks for this category warrant an exemption. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
This 19.5-inch brown trout, caught while jigging a mealworm, made the day for Drew Seils of Guilford while on an ice fishing trip to one of Connecticut’s more popular upstate lakes. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Whether scratching for steamers or raking up a basket of quahogs for New England chowder, recent low tides along the Guilford and Madison shorelines enhanced catches. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Part of Addendum VI to Amendment 6 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan addressed the use of circle hooks to combat recreational release mortality. It implemented the mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait in the recreational fisheries and stated that it must be implemented by Jan. 1, 2021. It also was decided that there would be no exceptions to the ruling, thereby making regulations less confusing to fishers and law enforcement.
Although this measure was well-intended and heavily discussed, it also provided a forum for an unexpected backlash and also overlooked unintended consequences. The pushback primarily came from the recreational fishing sector and, as it turned out, had merit that warranted further action. Since the majority of the voting members agreed, there were two motions adopted to address two issues of concern.
Backtracking for just a moment, most everyone agrees that the use of circle hooks (especially inline ones) reduces release mortality of striped bass. This is true provided that other factors like proper handling, quick release, and common sense photo-ops are observed. Once the dust settled, it was the lack of forethought and in-depth research that brought on an avalanche of rebuttals.
Fishing is and always has been a challenge between fish and fishers. When it comes to outsmarting a fish enough to invoke a strike and eventually have it landed, what the imagination can conjure up is unlimited in scope. If you tie flies, creations are limitless. If you make bucktails, those patterns are left to the imagination. And if pieces and parts of land or air-based animals are used in development, then those components become part of an artificial lure.
Striped bass do not eat deer, nor they do not eat pigs. However, it was discovered that under Addendum VI, deer hair and pork rinds, for example, would be considered bait since both were derived from a once-living animal. Furthermore, if feathers were used as an enhancement on an artificial lure, then they would also be considered bait and qualify in the broadest sense as bait fishing.
It’s evident that fishers who use bucktails, pork rinds, and certain flies would then be required to use inline circle hooks or would be in violation of bait fishing regulations if they didn’t. One other objection was the mandated use of circle hooks with tube rig gear. Exceptions to the rule were obviously becoming more relevant within this living document. It was soon realized there were other issues and that, unless further thought and action were given to these dilemmas, the recreational fishing industry would be faced with real challenges.
As a result, two motions were made, rigorously discussed, and finally passed after several hours of deliberations. These should aid in addressing gear concerns and defining bait requiring circle hooks. Draft Amendment 7 Public Information Document (PID) for public comment was amended as follows:
Motion One: “Move to accept Maine/Massachusetts proposal to study the tube rig fishery and, for the duration of the study, delay implementation of the circle hook requirement for tube rig gear through 2022 for all states in the striped bass management unit (Maine to North Carolina). Other states wishing to participate in a study on the tube rig fishery should submit a letter of intent to Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission within two weeks to ensure consistency in data collection.”
Motion Two: Create an ad hoc committee established by the chair to develop a definition of bait that would require the use of circle hooks and method of fishing that would require the use of circle hooks and how to handle incidental catch. This committee will report back to the Striped Bass Board at a special board meeting to take place early March 2021 or as soon as possible.”
On the Water
With associated gale force winds, Winter Storm Orlena swept through the Northeast, dumping double-digit snow totals throughout the state and clearing the way for the recent arctic polar vortex. As usual, this infamous winter event, known for its bitter cold temperatures dipping well into the country, did not disappoint. The sudden return to winter saw Long Island Sound temps drop into the low 30s and below as many parts of the adjoining tidal rivers saw a buildup of ice.
Punxsutawney Phil queued on six more weeks of winter. With the buildup of ice, fishing the hard water has taken on a surge of popularity and returned to center stage. Many of the local lakes and ponds have seen more activity, with ice fishers opting to travel less in search of safe ice and instead popping holes locally. As more fish acclimate themselves to changing conditions, flipping flags on tipups and those jigging the structure for perch, crappie, pickerel, trout, and northern pike are seeing better results. Live shiners and grubs will get attention.
However, the draw for stocked bonus lake trout and the iced-up stocked inland lakes and ponds are still drawing those willing to travel north of I-84 and farther. In fact, many of those hot spots are seeing quite a bit of traffic. If you are looking for a place with a little more solitude, the suggestion is to hit up one of the less-popular spots, but be certain to take along a spud to test ice thickness and also a pair of ice awls (safety spikes).
In spite of wintry weather, anglers would be remiss if they didn’t wet a line in the open or partially open rivers. Trout still feed, even though finesse and control play more of a part now than in warmer months. Swimmers, scented baits, spinners, flies, and worms all have their place. Depending on flows, Atlantic salmon are re-upping their game, too. Fishing deep is the key now! Striped bass are being caught and released, but you will need a bit of patience when fishing the main tidal rivers.
Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.
For all things fishy including crabbing supplies, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better.