StripersForever.org, a group dedicated to achieving gamefish status for striped bass, recently released the results of their 2006 survey, which included 445 responses from guides and anglers. In short, most striped bass fisherman are reporting smaller numbers and smaller sizes in their catches. You can read the details on the Web site, or in the extended entry.
Stripers Forever 2006 Annual Fishing Survey Results
In 2006 we compiled 445 surveys, comparable to those responding in 2005. We had double digit returns from most states from NC to ME, and approximately 100 each from MA and NJ. We feel that this year’s survey has again produced a good representative sample of sentiments from fishers all along the stripers migratory range. We will be sending this information to the press and to fishery policy makers everywhere. We hope that you personally will use it, and offer it to your local club or fishing organization to help us advocate for the goal of coast wide striped bass game fish.
The complete Excel spreadsheet of survey responses is posted to our website. Here is the link http://www.stripersforever.org/Home/I008F3494. This year we have added another shorter and more graphic sheet entitled Comparative Summaries and Graphs. It can be found on the same web page as the spread sheet of survey responses.
Here is a summary of the answers by question #.
2, 3. About 70% fish predominately from boats, and about 30% fish mostly from shore. About 75% of those who responded have more than 10 years of experience fishing for striped bass.
4. The “quality” of fishing question, #4, remains quite subjective. In 2006 43% of the anglers indicated that the quality of fishing for stripers was worse or much worse, while only 36% felt that it was improved – note that not all anglers perceive a change either positive or negative, so positive and negative sentiment will not equal 100%. This was the same percentage as in 2005. It is a reversal from 2003, the year of our first survey when the numbers were reversed and 44% felt the fishery was still improving. 2006 is also the third straight year of negative sentiment.
5. 58% of respondents in 2006 felt the average size of the stripers they caught was declining compared to only 21% who felt it was increasing. This is by far the most negative comment we have had on size of fish. We had several of the best known Massachusetts guides send in very negative comments about the effect that the commercial striped bass fishing season has on their local fishing areas, and on the trend in quantities of large bass in general.
6. In 2005 47% of respondents said they caught fewer or many fewer fish while only 22% reported catching more fish. This is a margin of more than 2 to 1 and is even more startling when you consider the giant 2003 year class that has provided a lot of small fish.
7. Last year we wrote that “the interest in guided trips has – thankfully – remained constant in all three years that we have done the survey, ranging from 58 to 60% of respondents being the same or more likely to book a guided trip”. This was again the case in 2006.
8, 9, 10. The percentage of anglers who felt that a small fish should be allowed for food was 73%, roughly comparable to 2005. When put together with our question on slot limits it is clear that many of our members understand that the brunt of the harvest on long-lived stripers should not be born by older, breeding-age fish. While we do not have an exact calculation, we know that many of the 27% who opposed the taking of a small bass are so concerned about the deterioration of the striped bass resource that they want to sharply curtail the harvest of stripers of all sizes until the numbers recover.
11, 12. Support for a slot limit to take the pressure off large breeders was at 74%, in line with last year’s 75%. Votes were quite evenly split, though, on what the slot should be, with 20-26 being the most popular at 123 votes, though the two other slots each received 99. A slot limit to take the pressure off large breeders was supported by 76 to 31 in MA , 71 to 16 in NJ, and was favored in every state in our survey. Survey after survey from anglers and guides cried out to remove the pressure from large stripers.
13. The mission of Stripers Forever – to achieve game fish status for the striped bass — is frequently challenged by those who claim that all we want is to take for ourselves all the fish presently caught by the commercial fishery. The results from all four of our annual member surveys show just how erroneous that interpretation is. For the fourth year in a row about 85% of those surveyed want at least half of the commercial catch reserved for conservation, and not to be assigned to increased recreational bag limits. In 2006 33%, up sharply from 28% in 2005, want 100% – all – of the commercial quota to be set aside for conservation and none added to the recreational catch.
14, 15. The popularity of using a stamp to buy out the commercial fishery increased again to include 80% of the respondents. We had several comments like “a slot limit and stamp sale to buyout the commercial fishery, it’s about time”. We just have to get the benefits of this idea across to the fishery managers and the politicians who make these policy decisions.
In 2006 we received surveys from 47 guides. The number of guides who felt that their business had slipped somewhat was double the number that said it had improved. A number of guides felt that they had lost some of their more serious regular customers because they were unable to find large fish as consistently as in the past. This is a terrible injustice. We are convinced that if there were no commercial fishery for striped bass, that the quality of fishing would be better now than at any time in the past, and that there wouldn’t be enough guides to fill the demand.
We received a variety of comments that can be read on the second tab of the spreadsheet . Comments that were seen repeatedly included: put an end to the commercial fishery, use more “fish-friendly” tackle like circle hooks; and adopt management measures to take the pressure off larger striped bass.