The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) is proposing to remove its requirement for the use of non-offset circle hooks when fishing for striped bass (and bluefish) with live or dead bait in Maine waters. To read DMR’s rule-making proposal, go to Maine DMR Circle Hook Rule-Making Proposal.
The use of non-offset circle hooks as opposed to offset circles or “J” hooks with bait has been mandated in Maine since 2013. The regulation is widely considered to be good fishery conservation. More often than not, the use of non-offset circle hooks (as opposed to offset circles or “J” hooks) penetrate the jaws of fish, thus making it far easier to release the fish, including undersized stripers which have proliferated along the Maine Coast in recent years. Reducing release mortality was and is the basis for the existing non-offset circle hook regulation in Maine.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) several years ago recommended that all striper states from Maine to North Carolina enact circle hook regulations. Although Maryland and Delaware have mandated circle hooks in a few jurisdictions, only Maine has done so with non-offset circle hooks for all striper bait fishing in the state. DMR is not challenging the proven conservation benefits of using non-offset circle hooks. Rather, it now says that any circle hook “restriction” for a migratory fish “…only [in] Maine waters is ineffective and overly restrictive to Maine anglers.”
The CCA-Maine Board of Directors strongly disagrees, as do charter captains, guides and anglers in Maine we fish with who support the use of non-offset circle hooks as an important part of the conservative management of our striped bass resource. These expert fishermen all agree that everything considered, non-offset circle hooks are the most “fish friendly” hooks when fishing with bait for stripers.
Striped bass in Maine waters are under pressure from all sides. Water temperatures are rising, predatory seals are on the increase, and fishing pressure on stripers is building as other recreational species like cod, bluefish and flounder are becoming harder to find. And despite the ASMFC-mandated harvest reduction put into place in 2015, preliminary reports at the end of 2018 indicate that striper stocks have not rebounded.
Instead of removing the current non-offset circle hook regulation in our waters, we think Maine DMR and the state’s representatives on the ASMFC Striped Bass Advisory Panel should be pressuring the ASMFC and state fishery managers to our south to make non-offset circle hooks mandatory for bait fishing in all the Atlantic Coast striper fisheries.
If you agree that non-offset circle hooks make good conservation sense, it’s important that you send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, Attention: Amanda Ellis. The comments deadline is January 21, 2019.
Thanks for your continued interest in striped bass conservation.