Delaware Updates Recreational Striped Bass Size Limit Regulation to Align with ASMFC Emergency Action

DNREC May 27, 2023 … The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has announced a revision to Delaware’s recreational striped bass size limit regulation, effective May 21. The update is in response to the emergency action taken earlier this month by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and aims to ensure compliance with their measures. The revised regulation modifies the recreational striped bass size limit from a slot of 28 to 35 inches to a narrower range of 28 to 31 inches.

The implementation of slot limits has become increasingly common in fisheries management to protect and conserve species with diminished stocks. The underlying rationale for a slot limit is to safeguard fish that are too small to have spawned and reproduced, which is primarily the case for striped bass below 28 inches in length. At the same time, it allows larger fish, particularly fecund females, above the slot limit to continue their reproductive activities.

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38 inch striped bass caught in the surf by Tim Dale on DS Custom Tackle top and Bottom rig and fishbites bloodworms

The ASMFC took decisive action in response to the unprecedented surge in recreational striper harvest in 2022, with a staggering 3,482,819 fish caught, almost doubling the 2021 figure of 1,858,386 fish. Upon assessing the 2022 recreational harvest in conjunction with the ASMFC’s new stock rebuilding projections, it became evident that the estimated probability of striper spawning stock rebuilding to the 2029 target dropped from 97% under the lower 2021 recreational fishing mortality rate to less than 15% if the 2022 mortality rate were to persist annually.

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The emergency regulation establishes a maximum size limit slot of 31 inches for the year 2023, with the intention of reducing the harvest of the robust 2015-year striped bass cohort. By limiting the harvest of this particular age group, the objective is to create favorable conditions for increased spawning among the exceptional 2015-year class. Importantly, neither the ASMFC emergency action nor the DNREC regulatory revision introduces changes to Delaware’s possession limit of one striped bass per person or to the year-round recreational striper season, which remains open.

Furthermore, it is essential to note that the ASMFC emergency action does not impact Delaware’s summer striped bass slot season. Anglers fishing in the Delaware River, Delaware Bay, and the tidal tributaries of the river and bay will still be allowed to possess one striped bass measuring between 20 and 25 inches daily from July 1 through August 31.

Anglers seeking detailed information about the revised regulation can refer to the online version of the 2023 Delaware Fishing Guide. For further inquiries regarding the updated regulation, individuals are encouraged to contact the DNREC Fisheries Section at 739-9914.

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