Late last week I told you about the welcome return of striped bass to the Penobscot River — a development that has lured anglers back to a river that has been largely striper-free for the past several years.
But over the weekend, a couple of readers checked in to point out that this year’s striper season isn’t like those of the past in a very important way: The regulations have changed.
Those readers — both conservationists with the health of fish stocks in mind — also took the time to urge anglers to reduce their impact on stripers.
Jeremy Antworth passed along a link to new striper regulations that went into effect in May, and which outlaw some of the techniques that were previously used.
“Mainers targeting stripers must now remove one of the treble hooks from all their lures, if using a plug with three trebles, for example,” Antworth wrote. “I recommend removing the middle hook, as they typically hit the head of the lure.”
Both Antworth and Fred Kircheis — a fisheries biologist who served as executive director of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission — stressed that a returning run of fish in the Penobscot doesn’t mean the species is thriving.
Instead, they say stripers still need our help. To that end, another new state regulation has protected more fish.
“It is nice to see stripers back in the Penobscot and that anglers are beginning to be attracted to them,” Kircheis wrote in an email. “You should perhaps have mentioned that the new [Maine Department of Marine Resources] regulations on stripers required a 28-inch minimum length, which is a departure from the slot limit that we used to operate under.”
Under the new rule, an angler can keep one fish per day, provided that the fish is longer than 28 inches.
Another major rule change: Anglers using live bait, like blood worms, are no longer allowed to use treble hooks at all. Instead, they are required to use a non-offset circle hook when using live bait.
That circle-hook regulation — which is designed to reduce the number of fish that are deeply hooked and injured or killed — is particularly important to Antworth.
“I am praying they enforce this and [that] you help to get word out to protect these great fish,” Antworth wrote. “I consider them a true heritage fish and obviously I love them so much more than a fish meal.”
Kircheis also said anglers could do more to avoid injuring fish by adjusting their fishing methods.
“You might also mention that angling for sub-legal fish (which the vast majority of stripers in the Penobscot are) with live bait, including worms, has the potential of injuring, and perhaps killing, a significant number of fish being handled,” Kircheis wrote. “Fishing with lures carries a much lower mortality rate among released fish.”