RFA calls for use of circle hooks in striper fishing
I just came across this article at the RFA website. It was dated at the end of August, 2001.
<<The Recreational Fishing Alliance today called for the phase in of mandatory circle hooks for anglers using bait to target striped bass.
"We believe that enough study of this issue has been done that we can now begin to take the next step to implementation. The standards for what constitutes a circle hook and how to implement their use into regulations should be developed as soon as possible. This will not be easy and it will take time and careful consideration," said James Donofrio, Executive Director of the RFA.
Recent studies, such as the one conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, show that using circle hooks instead of standard "J" hooks significantly reduces the release-mortality rate of striped bass.
Michael Doebley, Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs for the RFA, explained some of the details: "The RFA offers to serve as a liaison between recreational anglers and each State's enforcement division. However, as a first course of action, we ask that RFA affiliated and other independent angler's organizations support us on this position. We will ask states designated as producer areas to incorporate the mandatory use of circle hooks for bait fishing into regulations governing spawning areas during the periods when striped bass are present for spawning."
"We realize that not all anglers prefer to use circle hooks," said Captain Jack Ferrara, RFA's New York Chairman, "but there is mounting concern that the striped bass are not reaching their full size and age structure. By beginning to implement the use of circle hooks now, we can significantly reduce release-mortality and help avoid future season and bag restrictions," said Captain Jack.>>
It seems to me that their heart is in the right place, but they're not really addressing the core problem. The main reason that the stripers are not reaching their full size and age structures is the lack of a consistent size limit along the eastern seaboard. I know that I'm potentially opening up a can of worms here, but when fish are in a legal slot size in one state but not legal in other, there are going to be some inconsistencies in the population demographics. Some fish just simply will not have enough opportunity to reproduce as often as others. Some would argue that the patchwork of size restrictions along the coast sort of evens things out a bit, but that is simple speculation without hard data. In a striper eutopia, there would be one coastal size limit (for argument's sake, let's say 36"). Anything below this limit would be returned to the sea to continue its contribution back to the species, and anything above the limit could be kept if so desired. This universal limit would eliminate the excuse of "ignorance of the local law" that many are prone to use when keeping illegal fish. But how to enforce this? Ah, that's the question. Remember, I said it was a eutopia....
I can still see stripers being caught on the J hooks, even if the circle hook is mandated. People could claim that the striper was an incidental bycatch, that they weren't fishing for that particular species. Like anything, the potential for abuse is there.
At the very least, I think that the RFA has brought light to a potential problem with the stripers. Many seem to have become complacent with the fact that the species has rebounded so well from its dire straits in the 1980s, and with this complacency comes a lack of foresight. Those who follow the welfare of the species closely know that the age structures are a bit off kilter, and that to ensure decent populations we need to keep monitoring and protecting them closely. So to the RFA, thank you for again bringing deserved attention to the stripers. Let's keep at it, and use the lean years of the 1980s as motivation.
Thanks for letting me ramble. :-)
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