Back on the Water

Native Kennebec Striped Bass Need Your Help

June Striper

There's only 24 hours left, but you can still   

email laurice.churchill@maine.gov through April 14.

 

The Kennebec River in Maine is home to the only significant population of breeding East Coast striped bass north of the Hudson River. Stocking efforts in the 1980s helped restore these once native fish to an increasingly healthy and productive watershed. The ambitious project worked. Every spring, stripers return to the Kennebec to spawn successfully.

 

In 1990 the Maine Department of Marine Resources implemented special regulations on the Kennebec River and surrounding waters to protect these spawning fish during May and June. All striper fishing is single hook, artificial lure only and catch and release only until July 1.

 

The Maine DMR is considering a proposal to change these regulations. 1)The catch and release zone would shrink considerably and, 2)use of bait, on circle hooks only, would become legal . As of this email, you have 24 hours to submit your comments regarding this proposal to the Maine DMR. Past rulings clearly show that your voice does count, as public comments have helped sustain these conservation measures in previous challenges.

 

Reducing the catch and release zone and allowing the use of bait during May and June will increase striped bass mortality in this watershed.  I am opposed to these changes in regulations. Here's why:

 

  • We have far too little data about the spawning habits of these fish. We need to know much more before we take anything other than the most conservative approach (short of closing the fishery completely). Has the value of these spawning fish decreased since 1990? Do we have supporting evidence that we should take a less conservative approach?
  • There has been a 66% decline in the estimated recreational catch of striped bass along the East Coast from 2006 to 2009. Maine DMR has submitted another proposal to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that would reduce striped bass mortality along the East Coast up to 40% and further protect spawning stock when it is concentrated and vulnerable. How can we ask every other East Coast state to support such changes when we are modifying rules that will increase striper mortality and weaken protection of spawning fish in our own waters?  
  • When I explain to my guests why these rules are in effect, I find that they become instant supporters of these conservation measures. In all of my years guiding I've only lost a handful of potential clients because of the catch and release rules.  
  • Waters opened to keeping fish would allow use of J hooks for the next two years.   
  • I'm a huge fan of circle hooks but allowing the use of bait during May and June will increase the overall pressure on this fishery. Increased pressure will lead to increased mortality, even within any catch and release zone. Fisheries managers worldwide use gear restrictions as a tool to limit mortality.
  • Enacting or defeating these proposed changes will have no significant effect on the numbers of striped bass available for us to pursue in this watershed this season or next season or the year after that. What we don't know is what role these native, spawning fish could play in our fishery in ten, twenty, thirty years.  
  • We took the gamble in the 1980s with the stocking program. We enacted special regulations in 1990 when we knew that the program was working. Why go off course now?

 

If you would be willing to take five minutes to share your opinion with the Maine DMR I'd really appreciate it.  

 

You can email laurice.churchill@maine.gov through April 14.

 

Thanks to all of you who've already submitted comments.

 

Capt. Peter Fallon 

 www.MaineStripers.com

 

To learn more:

 

Copy of the Maine DMR official notice of proposed rule changes

 

CCA article about striped bass restoration on the Kennebec River

 

Blog posts from some of my good friends and fellow guides with their thoughts on the proposed changes (both for and against)

The Fish Whistle 

Super Fly Charters  

Capt. Doug Jowett   

 

Discussion on the Fly Fishing In Maine (FFIM) Saltwater Forum  

 

Discussion on the Maine Fly Fish Saltwater Forum 

 

Recent article in the Coastal Journal

by Capt. Barry Gibson, a strong supported of these proposed changes

Comments

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Jeff

Good artical keep up the good work keep posting your progress.

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Great Job! Thank you so much for sharing. That's good.

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If it that really takes to preserve those kind of fish, then it is a worthy campaign. Thumbs up for your perspective!

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