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Fishing News and Tide Chart
April 4, 2019

Fishy Stuff Discussed at FMAC and Commission Meetings
Submitted by Dr. Ken Neill

FI 4apr19Striped Bass: We will face some significant changes. The question is what? The biggest concern are the large breeders but many of the possible changes address an overall reduction. Things like a boat limit of 3 fish would give this percentage of reduction and just about anything else you can think of is on the table. Initially, we thought Virginia might go with a 36 inch maximum size limit for both the recreational and commercial fisheries ahead of any ASMFC action. Now, it is looking like we will wait for some guidance of which way ASMFC is going but expect some rather significant changes in striped bass regulations at least by 2020 but Virginia could decide to do something this year. ASMFC will meet at the end of April.

Sea bass: there will be a change in the season this year sometime. We have approximately 21 days to trim off of the season which is currently scheduled to run from May 15 through the end of the year. This is to make up for the February season we had.

Towing Fish: there was a fairly large public outcry against towing striped bass. There were also reports of boats sight-fishing for cobia dragging their one big fish along behind them. So, there was a proposal to make towing (engine running and in gear) striped bass and cobia illegal. The engine in gear thing was to not affect anglers paddling kayaks with a fish on a stringer or boats at anchor or drifting. Then the proposal became to not allow towing of any fish but....we troll live bait (power drifting for flounder, slow trolling bunker for kings and so on). Ok, so not allow towing any fish with a bag limit. Eels have a bag limit so this would make trolling eels for rockfish illegal. So, only fish with a bag limit less than 10 fish. Anyway, it ended up back to the initial proposal. It will now be illegal to tow striped bass or cobia behind a vessel with the engine running and in gear.

Cobia: we have had a special cobia permit with mandatory reporting for a couple of years now. This was done to gather the most accurate catch data possible in the wake of a possible closure of the fishery based on estimated numbers that anglers simply did not believe. A lot has changed. The feds have handed off cobia management to ASMFC but we still have to rely on MRIP estimates except for what Virginia is doing. The first year of this special permit/reporting started out as a voluntary, get used to it thing. Then, it went to you could not get the permit the following year until you reported for the previous year. You were supposed to report within 14 days of the season closure but VMRC has not enforced this. They would accept the report even the next year. Now, it is for real. Report your catches. If you get the permit and don't have any catches to report, you have to report that also. The reporting deadline has been extend to 21 days after the season closes but if you have not reported in that time, you will not be able to get a permit next year. You will be able to the year after that but failure to report on time will result in a one year time-out.

Striped bass Spring Trophy Season: There is a special permit for this season also with the same reporting requirements so read the above. This season is about a month away so I expect we will have it this year. Eliminating the spring striped bass trophy season is a distinct possibility for 2020.

Further information below.
Tilefish/grouper: Another fishery that had a special permit with mandatory reporting....no longer. Now that the Mid- Atlantic Council has added blueline tilefish to their management plan VMRC no longer sees the need for this special permit with reporting requirements. So no permit or reporting required by VMRC for tilefish/grouper. Charter boats do have federal reporting/permitting requirements.

Green crabs: basically, I asked too many questions. Green crabs are an invasive species that has been here over 200 years. Anglers like using them for tautog bait especially when our blue crab season is closed. Though there are green crabs in the bay, they are not here in any significant number. They are more prevalent and are a problem to our north. We do have a regulation that says something like only these species may be imported into Virginia with the intention of placing them into waters of the Commonwealth. It goes onto to list some oysters and clams from certain states. This has been used to ban bringing green crabs here from out of state for bait. It was thought that some judges would not support this as there is nothing specific saying green crabs are illegal. So there was a proposal to pass an emergency regulation today stating that it was unlawful to import green crabs into Virginia with the intent of placing them into the waters of the Commonwealth (following the language of the original statute). Well, the way the original regulation is written, only those specific clams and oysters may be brought into the state with intent of placing them in state waters. If you use this to ban green grabs, it would also apply to ballyhoo, blue crabs, shrimp and on and on. Anything that we might want to use as bait that came from another state. Obviously not the intent. Also, even with the proposed green crab specific regulation, it would be legal (my opinion not opposed by the attorneys in the room) to bring all the green crabs into the state that you wanted with the intent of using them as bait at the Triangle Wrecks or anywhere else outside the 3NM line. So...maybe make it illegal to posses green crabs in Virginia but do we have that authority and what of a green crab caught in Virginia waters....you want them released? Anyway, back to the lawyers to look at. We will be revisiting this as the legal issues are worked through. There has been at least one conviction under the current regulation so probably avoid green crabs as bait...especially in state waters.

VMRC to Consider Emergency Proposal to Eliminate Trophy-size Striped Bass Fisheries
Submitted by Dr. Ken Neill

FI2 4apr19On April 23, 2019, the Marine Resources Commission will consider an emergency staff proposal to eliminate the Bay, Coastal and Potomac River Tributaries Spring Trophy-size Striped Bass Recreational Fisheries described in Chapter 4 VAC 20-252-10 et seq.

The justifications for this proposal include the status of the coastal striped bass stock that is overfished. This means the spawning stock is low and not biologically stable. Overfishing has been occurring for several years meaning the rate of striped bass removals from the stock has caused an overfished condition. The number of striped bass harvested recreationally by Virginia fisheries has declined markedly since 2010 when 368 thousand striped bass were harvested from all tidal Virginia waters. In 2018, preliminary recreational striped bass harvest is less than 52 thousand fish. The reporting rate for the trophy-size recreational striped bass fisheries has been low and ranged from 37 percent to 50 percent, from 2015 through 2018. All these factors have contributed to the staff proposal for these emergency actions, and section ยง 28.2-210 of the Code of Virginia authorizes these amendments for the protection of the striped bass resource.

The emergency amendments proposed by staff include: 1) elimination of the open season for the Bay spring trophysize striped bass recreational fishery of May 1 through June 15, inclusive, whereby a 36-inch minimum size limit has been in effect; 2) elimination of the open season for the Coastal spring trophysize striped bass recreational fishery of May 1 through May 15, inclusive, whereby a 36-inch minimum size limit has been in effect; and, 3) elimination of the open season for the Potomac River tributaries spring striped bass recreational fishery of April 20 through May 15, inclusive, whereby a 35 inch minimum size limit is in effect.

Staff proposes an effective date of April 29, 2019 for the emergency regulation. If the Commission adopts the emergency regulation, a public hearing on this issue would be requested for May 28, 2019.


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