You may remember reading in our Chesapeake Bay Trophy Rockfish Season 2019 Opener Preview that in consideration of the recent stock assessments, North Carolina had already closed most of its waters to striper fishing and Virginia was seriously considering drastic conservation action of its own. Well, now it's official - the spring striped bass season in Virginia is off. In a press release issued today, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) announced that their vote was unanimous, and an emergency closure would be enacted.
The emergency measure will eliminate the spring striped bass trophy season in the Virginia portion of the Bay from May 1 through June 15, along the Coast from May 1 through May 15, and in the Virginia tributaries to the Potomac River from April 29 through May 15. The schoolie season, running May 16 June 15 for two fish between 20 and 28 inches, remains in place.
That the VMRC acted on the recommendations of their scientists may surprise some, but in truth there wasn't much immediate, organized opposition. Recreational organizations supported the measures, most for-hire outfits in Virginia don't depend on this season for their bread and butter, and this closure doesn't affect the commercial interests that so often vocally and effectively confront conservation measures. That said, we at FishTalk were glad to hear that VMRC Commissioner Steven Bowman hasn't forgotten about the impact of the commercial fisheries on striped bass populations.
"Today’s action was the first step, and the Marine Resources Commission will continue to look at other measures for both recreational and commercial sectors to further reduce fishing mortality,” he said.
In the Maryland sections of the Bay, of course, where spring trophy striper fishing does account for a significant portion of the income of many for-hire captains, trophy season is already underway and there's been no talk (at least not publicly) among officials to end it prematurely. 2020 could be an entirely different story. With the stock assessed as over-fished, some sort of reduction in the overall catch is a given. Whether that means an end to trophy season, a shorter regular season, a larger size limit, or a smaller creel limit, change is indeed coming for Maryland anglers as well.
Read Striped Bass Population: The Controversy Continues, for more insight into the striper situation on the Chesapeake Bay.