You may remember that as we recreational anglers were recently giving comment on 2024 striped bass reg changes, the Maryland DNR announced an “Emergency Regulation” ending trophy season and simultaneously closing down catch-and-release fishing during the same time period. That “Emergency” action appears to have stalled. The DNR announced today that since the Joint Committee on Administration, Executive, and Legislative Review (the legislative committee that can OK actions like this, which are outside of the normal process) has not taken action, a public comment period on this now-proposed change has been opened.

releasing a striped bass
Just about everyone agrees that the trophy season for striped bass has to go - but do we really want to throw out catch-and-release fishing along with it?

At this point in time, just about everyone agrees that trophy season needs to go. However, ending catch and release during this timeframe is a different question. Remember:

  • Water temperatures are cool enough during this period that the mortality rate for released fish is miniscule — a mere 1.6 percent according Maryland's own studies (Find the study here and scroll down to the Susquehanna Flast Catch-and-Release Fishery section).
  • There is zero data or information whatsoever indicating that catch-and-release fishing interferes with spawning. None.
  • In recent years, by May the vast majority of migratory fish have spawned anyway. In fact, most have already left Maryland’s waters. Catch-and-release anglers are far more likely to catch a resident fish than a migrating breeder.
  • Businesses that cater to recreational anglers, ranging from tackle shops to boat dealers, have already taken an economic hit from the decline in trophy season. Yet most are willing to take another financial hit for the good of the fishery by supporting an end to trophy season. Why must they be penalized with the loss of catch-and-release fishing during this timeframe, when there is not any indication, much less data, to support the notion that it does the fishery any good?

1/23/24 6:00 Editor's Note Update: Someone has pointed out that average water temps in different parts of the Bay can and do rise above the 64-degree threshold at which the DNR study shows mortality begins to rise significantly, particularly late in the month. We went by the baywide average (61 degrees) for the month and agree that this should be taken into consideration both by anglers making their comments and by the DNR in making the final rules. We also note that the mortality study was performed on the Flats, and a lack of salinity is known to increase mortality, so it could be significantly lower in other areas of the Bay. We need more science!

Did the Joint Committee on Administration, Executive, and Legislative Review agree that it’s ridiculous to penalize anglers, and by extension deal yet another blow to the businesses that cater to them, when it has little to no impact on the fishery? We don’t know. Did they see through the charade of the people who have a vested interest in catching and killing fish, and are currently attempting to blame recreational catch-and-release anglers for the woes of the rockfish fishery? Again, we don’t know. What we do know is that suddenly, mysteriously, we have the chance to provide comment on this proposed regulation from now until February 6.

Click on this link to the DNR Striped Bass – Changes to Season Comment Form right now. You will be given the opportunity to voice support for ending trophy season without eliminating catch-and-release fishing during this timeframe. You will be given the opportunity to give your reason for doing so. And you will be given the opportunity to provide comment on proposed changes to the Susquehanna/Northeast/Flats season, as well as the extension of the July closure to include the first week of August.

We know that the DNR has utterly ignored public comment in the past. We know that they’ve been disingenuous with us, and we understand how frustrating it’s been. But remember anglers, there is new leadership at the department. The new secretary, Josh Kurtz, has not heard much from our community since taking office. So please, make your voice heard clearly, concisely, and politely. It will take you two minutes, max — fill out that form right now.