Saturday, June 1, 2019

Striper Numbers and Outlook Not Good

Here's a hefty schoolie landed in the Bay yesterday. Fishing has
been marginal this spring with less schoolies around than in
previous years and way less keepers.
We are into June now, and as far as I am concerned the spring season is over.  It was just fair overall.  The numbers of schoolies were down from previous years, and keepers over 30 inches have become really scarce. If I were grading the spring fishing, I would grade it a "C" overall, and I would probably rate 2019 as the worst spring fishing I have seen in the last 10 years here in RI. From the complaints I am hearing along the shore, most fishermen seem to agree with that assessment.
So, what's the problem? Pick any or all of the possible reasons below:
* Weather- Yup, it's been bad.  Lots of cold weather, lots of rain, lots of stormy weather. Water quality in the upper Gansett Bay is a diluted coffee color, really stained. It's been that way all spring. There is also an excessive amount of weed growth. I am assuming this is from all the rain and runoff. But, it has been rainy and cold in other years, and still good fishing. Not this year.
*Lack of bait- I have seen very little bait around. No bay anchovies, no mummies, few shrimp. Even when I do find bait (such as yesterday in the Bay (large menhaden)), there was nothing under it.
* Stripers in trouble- We know from studies the numbers overall are down.  Keepers are really down. I know of many good fishermen who have yet to catch a keeper this year.  Could we see the big downfall this year? This year I am catching roughly half of what I have caught in my spots compared to recent years. I was out in the boat all day yesterday in Mt. Hope Bay, a real hotspot in recent years at this time.  All I could manage was 6 schoolies. Three of us in the boat and no keepers. Just fair or marginal fishing overall.
*Poaching and mortality from recreational guys a big problem- Poaching is at an epidemic rate here in RI.  I was in a bait shop yesterday and the owner told of many undersized schoolies he knew of that were being caught, kept and filleted in the upper Bay. I have written about the same thing along the oceanfront. Recent studies also point to a high mortality rate among stripers caught by recreational anglers.  That rate is as high as 45%. It's all dead fish being released.  The causes are many....poor fish handling, treble hooks in the gills, swallowed bait, fish dropped into rocks to name a just a few. Think about all the recreational anglers out there.....the toll has to amount to millions of fish a year.
Big changes are on the horizon for next year.  But, will it be too little, too late? Maybe it would have made sense to put those conservation measures put into effect this year.