How Far North Do Striped Bass Spawn?
Hello from Piet Masone, a former Madison resident who now lives in Cananda and who experienced steady catch and release striped bass action while fishing the Gaspe Peninsula, where the St. Lawrence River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Prolific spawning grounds of the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence resident striped bass are situated in the Northwest Miramichi River estuary. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
We spend a lot of quality time discussing striped bass populations and implementing fishery management plans that strive to maintain a healthy biomass. These hearty fish readily adapt to their habitat unless it falters one way or the other, be it in climatic changes, negative environmental conflicts, or a diminishing food supply.
Most of our efforts have to do with Atlantic coastwise measures that affect state regulations from Maine to Florida. We have learned that striped bass come from varying stocks, rely on key forage fish, are not necessarily fussy eaters, and can rebound from depletion when given the opportunity. Also, they are an extremely popular sportfish and held in high regard by recreational fishers.
This year, as all striped bass fishers probably know by now, in-line circle hooks are required (subject to any exemptions) when bait fishing. In Hawaii, for example, there has been a strong push for barbless ones, even during key high-end billfish tournaments. It is now known that large numbers of recovered stripers have taken up residence in northern Atlantic Ocean waters after being absent for 40 years. Many fishers are even surprised to learn that there is a spawning population in Canada, even though striped bass are native to Canada. So, it is no surprise that in northern Nova Scotia, a 51.5-inch striper estimated at 52.3 pounds was recently caught on a shallow diving plug.
There, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DOF) protects the spawning grounds in the Northwest Miramichi River estuary (Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence stock) by limiting fishing days. This was necessary, because the spawning population of 994,000 in 2017 was reduced to an estimated 333,000 in 2019; the worst was in 1993, when numbers were reduced to 5,000 due to commercial fishing and bycatch mortality. According to the Species At Risk Act, intentionally catching striped bass is prohibited in tidal rivers draining into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. For comparison, the daily bag limit for striped bass in Canadian waters is three per day measuring 19.69 inches (50 centimeters) to 25.59 inches (65 centimeters) and, along our Atlantic coastwise waters, the daily creel limit is one per day at 25 inches to 35 inches.
Piet Masone, formerly of Madison and now living in Canada, is typically a diversified sweet water angler. Early on, Piet shockingly learned about the resident population of striped bass in far north Quebec at the Gaspe Peninsula, where the St. Lawrence River empties into the Atlantic Ocean, which had once been locally extinct due to overfishing and habitat destruction. Masone also learned how strictly protective the DOF was of that stock of spawners and its restrictions emphasizing catch and release. As an aside, we in the Atlantic states now require in-line circle hooks, whereas in the spawning grounds of the Northwest Miramichi River, in-line barbless circle hooks are required. Something we might consider.
On the Water
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The meteorological spring has passed, and in its wake follows the spring equinox that falls on Saturday, March 20. Our clocks have sprung ahead as Daylight Saving Time took hold at 2 a.m. on March 14. The cycle of cold mornings was broken when 60-degree afternoon air temps reminded us just how close the season is to flipping. Although some stormy weather may lie ahead, we are pretty much over the hump, and what the snow and ice that scattered the shoreline are now close to a memory.
Long Island Sound inshore water temperatures are slowly edging up and recently hit the 39-degree mark. It will not be long before we see 43 degrees and more baitfish entering our waters as the fishing cycles begin. In view of the recent new moon, the hunt for schoolie action along the beaches has begun. Mid-March usually gives fly rodders some action as they strip along a closure near the bottom. An 8-weight or a small bucktail is just about right. Depending on the tide and time, a top water plug, zig-zagged across the top, would achieve results if the school was present.
The attention getter was the Governor’s executive order regarding the early opening of the season’s inland waters, even though existing regulations still apply. In addition to that order, the weather certainly cooperated, as did the flows and levels of most rivers and streams. Those waters that were stocked saw some good action, especially the catch and release areas. Ice fishers still attempted to set up in northern areas of the state, but even those lakes and ponds have been touchy and require extra caution when venturing out.
However, as ice cleared from the coves and some of the other areas, the northern pike activity picked up when a live shiner was presented. Pickerel, yellow perch, and some suspended black crappie were also fairly active. In addition to shiners, live worms were productive. Let’s see what happens with the white perch since that action has tapered off of late.
The way the freshwater season is shaping up, it appears as though multi-specie angling will be active. All indications point to a good trout season, provided that stocking meets demand and river flows and levels are adequately maintained without being negatively affected by lingering heat and lack of rainfall. There will certainly be enough anglers out again this season to thoroughly test the system.
Captain Morgan’s 16th annual Codi and Bubba Memorial Trout Contest is scheduled to kick off on Saturday, April 10 at 6 a.m. Registrations are now underway and will be accepted until 5:59 a.m. that Saturday. Fish anywhere and bring your catch to the shop for a weigh-in. Five bucks gets you in and kids under 12 fish free when accompanied by a registered adult. Donations gladly accepted. Prizes for the top three trout weighed. Date subject to change pending any new pandemic restrictions. We are looking forward to another fun-filled event!
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 flies, 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.