Striped Bass Release Surviveability Increase Feb 3, 2019 20:10:45 GMT
Post by Virginia Striper©® on Feb 3, 2019 20:10:45 GMT
Striped Bass Release Surviveability Increase
Catch and release fishing has become a key element of maintaining a healthy striped bass fishery. Here are tips from a pro to increase the chances of stripers survival.
Most of today’s fishery regulations are attempts at making our fisheries self-sustaining commodities that are capable of replenishing their populations on an annual basis. This was certainly the goal with the stringent striped bass regulations that have been in place since the 90’s, when the stripers were brought back from the brink of disaster after a harvest moritorium in the late 80’s. Until recently, the stripers flourished because of these regulations. However, mostly because of poor spawns in the main striper breeding ground, the Chesapeake Bay, but also because of over harvesting by anglers up and down the coast, the stripers are once again in need of some help by fishery managers. As a result the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Committee has called for a coastwide cut of 25% on the take of striped bass for the 2015 season.
The striped bass, without question, is the most popular species of sportfish along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts. The stripers are under this tremendous fishing pressure as they are cherished by anglers for both their hard fighting determination, and also because they’re excellent table fare. If you are one of the millions of anglers that spend time pursuing striped bass then it is your responsibility to be efficient at releasing fish.
Stripers are a tough robust fish with armor like scales, and a well-muscled body that make them prime survivalists within their enviroment. The two main causes of mortality to a rod and reel caught striper are from either a physical injury or stress from the exertion of the fight. It’s quite apparent that a fish can be physically injured from hook wounds. However, keep in mind, even without an injury from a hook, inappropriate handling during the un-hooking process can cause the fish to expire after release.
Circle hooks have long been the staple of the commercial long line fleet that targets everything from swordfish to cod. The reason for this preference is because these hooks are very efficient at hooking fish. A fish simply eats the bait, and a great majority of the time the fish is hooked, and stays hooked when a circle hook is deployed. A wonderful benefit of circle hooks is that a large majority of hook ups results in a relatively injury- free jaw penetration. Any fish hooked in the mouth area stands a much better chance of surviving a release than a fish hooked down in the gullet. So, when bait fishing for striped bass use circle hooks, and you will reduce physical injuries greatly.
Upon catching a striper and it’s time to remove a hook, do so with haste, and have any unhooking aids close at hand. I often use an armored fillet glove whenever I attempt to grasp a large bass by the inside of the mouth. A stripers’ mouth is as rough as 80-grit sand paper, and after scraping my fingers raw way too many times I’ve learned it’s best to have gloves at easy reach. When gripping a bass it is key to avoid grasping the bass where you can injure its’ gills. Touching the hard outer gill plate is fine, but by all means avoid the red gill rakers inside the plate. If the striper is gut hooked do not attempt surgery to save your fifty-cent hook, simply clip the leader as close to the hook as possible, and get the fish back in the water as quickly as possible.
Circle hooks work well, and cut down on gut hooked striped bass tremendously.
A fish thst is hooked on rod and reel is going to fight to get free from its’ tether. There is no getting around the fact that the fight is going to cause the fish some stress. During a fight lactic acids build up in the fishes’ muscles. The longer the fight, the more lactic acid builds up, too long of a fight and the fish basically becomes paralyzed and dies. To reduce the amount of stress placed on a fish during a struggle against a rod and reel the angler must end the fight as quickly as possible. This means forget about using light or innapproprite tackle because wimpy tackle will only prolong the fight. This will put undue stress upon a hooked striped bass, and often, even after reviving, some of these stressed released stripers are going to expire. Bottom line, if you are going to be releasing fish, use gear that will end the fight as quickly as possible. If you insist on using light tackle, once the limit is caught and kept, rack the rod, and head for the barn.
Drag setting is also an important issue in catch and release fishing. I can’t tell you how many anglers I see attempt to catch stripers with drags that are way to light. A proper drag pressure setting should be one-third the breaking strength of the main line. At some point, a responsible angler should formulate this setting with a hand scale to insure accuracy. Once the drag is properly set with a scale, then peel line from the reel to feel what proper tension feels like. Do this every time you prepare for a trip, and eventually muscle memory will allow one to set a proper drag without using the hand scale.
Always use proper sized tackle and drag settings for the task at hand for striped bass or any catch and release fish
Once a striped bass is hooked, and fought to the boat or shore, there are still many things one can do to help the survivability of a released fish. If possible land the fish without a net. However, this is often impossible because of the size of the hooked fish, or distance from the water the angler is located. However, if you can lip-grip the fish, do so. When using a net be sure to get the fish out of the net as quickly as possible, and always place the fish gently down onto the deck. If possible (on a boat) put on the saltwater washdown pump, and de-hook the fish within the stream of the running water, this creates a film of water between the fish and the deck. If the bass is thrashing about excessively, take a clean rag, soak it in water, and place it over the stripers’ eyes, this will quickly calm the fish down. I know this technique is not perfect because a rag can wipe away the protective coating of slime on a fishes’ body, but I feel as long as the rag is wet it’s much better than letting a bass beat its’ body against the cockpit floor.
At this point photos are okay as long as the camera gear is ready to go. Over the years I have discovered that having a photo record of large released fish is a lot cooler than taking dead fish pictures back at the dock.
If reviving the striper is needed, place the fish in the water by grasping the lower jaw, or the base of the tail, and work the fish back and forth in the water. This causes oxygen rich water to pass through the fishes’ gills. As the bass revives you’ll feel the fish come to life within your grasp, and its’ dorsal fin should eventually begin to stiffen. Any second now the bass will thrash from your grasp. At this point you’ll probably have a face full of water as a parting gift from the now released striped bass.