Today, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is alerting anglers to several changes to striped bass regulations in the Delaware River and Delaware Estuary. These changes will take effect on Sunday, March 1.
These new regulations are taking place in order to meet requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The changes apply only to the Pennsylvania side of the river and estuary. The Delaware River in Pennsylvania, for the purposes of striped bass management, is divided into two sections known as the Estuary and the Delaware River.
Beginning March 1, the creel limit for striped bass in the Estuary, defined as the Pennsylvania/Delaware state line upstream to the Calhoun Street Bridge will be reduced to one fish from January 1 through March 31 and from June 1 through December 31. The creel limit is currently set at two. As in the recent past, fish must be at least 28 inches.
For the remaining two months, from April 1 through May 31, the slot length limit will be changed to 21-25 inches. The current slot limit is 20-26 inches. During this two-month period, the creel limit will remain at two fish per day.
In the Delaware River upstream of the Estuary, the creel limit for striped bass will be reduced from two fish to one. The river is open year-round with a minimum size of 28 inches.
This action is being taken to meet the requirements of ASMFC’s management plan for striped bass, which calls for management actions when the coast-wide spawning stock biomass (SSB) or fishing mortality rates reach thresholds set within the plan.
The SSB threshold is 127 million pounds, and the current SSB is just above this at 128 million pounds. At the current fishing mortality rates, there is concern that the SSB will fall below the threshold in the near future. In addition to these concerns, recruitment of young fish has been relatively low in many of the years since 2004.
In response to these concerns, the ASFMC Striped Bass Management Board, which includes the PFBC as a member, has directed all coastal states to reduce fishing mortality rates by 25% beginning in 2015. These revised length and creel limits are designed to meet those requirements.
Striped bass are an estuarine species that can be found from Florida to Canada. A long-lived species (at least up to 30 years of age), striped bass typically spend the majority of their adult life in coastal estuaries or the ocean, migrating north and south seasonally and ascending to rivers to spawn in the spring.
Mature females (age six and older) produce large quantities of eggs), which are fertilized by mature males (age two and older) as they are released into riverine spawning areas. While developing, the fertilized eggs drift with the downstream currents and eventually hatch into larvae. After their arrival in the nursery areas, located in river deltas and the inland portions of coastal sounds and estuaries, they mature into juveniles. They remain in coastal sounds and estuaries for two to four years and then join the coastal migratory population in the Atlantic Ocean. In the ocean, fish tend to move north during the summer and south during the winter.
Important wintering grounds are located from offshore New Jersey to North Carolina. With warming water temperatures in the spring, the mature adult fish migrate to riverine spawning areas to complete their life cycle. There are significant contributions from the spawning grounds in the Delaware River.