AUGUSTA — Maine is imposing a stricter daily bag limit for striped bass in response to a ruling by a multistate commission requiring a 25 percent reduction in the recreational harvest of stripers from 2013 levels.

In a 10-0 vote Tuesday, the Department of Marine Resources Advisory Council tightened the bag limit to one fish at 28 inches or longer. The new limit will take effect Tuesday.

The state’s current daily bag limit also allows recreational fishermen to keep one striped bass, but it can be from 20 to 26 inches long or greater than 40 inches.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission issued its ruling on the recreational striped bass fishery late last year. There is no commercial striped bass fishery in Maine.

There was little discussion before the advisory council’s vote, but many fishermen who sent written comments favored tougher regulations. Some even favored a moratorium on the recreational fishery.

Dana Eastman, owner of the Tackle Shop in Portland, said striper fishermen in Maine are not going to complain about stiffer regulations because there is widespread concern about the species. However, he believes a slot option, in which anglers could keep stripers from 24 to 26 inches, would have better protected the breeding fish.

“I’d be OK with them shutting down the fishery. I think we need to be as conservative as we can. I don’t know anyone who feels differently,” Eastman said. “Most of the guys who fish are guys who think about it year-round. They really just want to see more fish.”


The state’s striped bass harvest has dropped precipitously in the past decade – from more than 4 million fish in 2006 to a low of 160,610 in 2011. In 2013, the most recent year for data, the harvest was 443,789.

Other coastal states in the Northeast also have seen a dramatic decline in striped bass, though biologists are at a loss to explain exactly why. Maine is at the northern end of the range for stripers, which spawn in coastal estuaries, primarily the Chesapeake Bay, and migrate up the coast in the spring and back south in the fall. Typically, they are found in Maine between May and October.

The Department of Marine Resources advisory council chose 28 inches over another proposal that would have allowed anglers to keep one striped bass daily between 24 and 26 inches. Commissioner Pat Keliher recommended the 28-inch proposal because it provided consistency with the other states.

“We made the point to the (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries) commission five years ago” that the population was rapidly declining, Keliher said. “Every state from here to New Jersey had a different regulation. It was difficult for the (commission) to assess the population then.”


New Hampshire recently switched from a two-fish bag limit to a one-fish limit with a minimum of 28 inches.

“It’s a real pain for Marine Patrol to enforce the current regulations near the Piscataqua River (along the New Hampshire border),” said Bruce Joule, Maine’s marine recreational fisheries group leader.

Only Geoffrey Smith of The Nature Conservancy in Brunswick spoke before the council vote, raising the same question that several fishermen asked in written comments sent to the department: Whether the breeding stock – stripers over 30 inches – would be most at risk under the new bag limit.

Keliher replied that the 24- to 26-inch “slot” option would prevent the fish from ever reaching the spawning stage. He said for stripers larger than 28 inches, half the females have spawned once.

Andrew Whitaker, 35, of Buxton, releases the stripers he catches and would have a hard time keeping one given the decline he’s seen in the fishery.

“I’m a catch-and-release fishermen. I have yet to keep a fish,” Whitaker wrote in his comments to the council. “From what I’ve seen in the fishery from 2006 until now, I’d have a hard time keeping a fish. It’s declined quite a bit as far as the numbers of fish in the water. And I’m on the water three to five days after work. I don’t see the large groups of fish anymore.”

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