Letting The Big Girls Go

Published a year ago today …  

striped bass, adam amy, delaware, sussex county,
Adam May … So this happened today! Fishing with Randy Preston and Rick Cornell and got lucky when this fish picked up my eel. My personal best @ 47.5″, released to fight another day! Everyone kills these trophy fish but I opt for the fish closer to the minimum length, more desirable table fare.

We have a slot limit now in Delaware for Striped bass, due to that people have been throwing a lot of bass back, and everyone has been compliant with creel limits when DNREC has been checking.  There are some monsters that are being caught and based on our creel limits (over 44 inches) it is legal to keep them, these are all female bass.  I have seen a lot of large dead fish, and that is fine since it is Delaware’s creel limit.  I prefer catch and release of the big girls but that is my personal preference.  So, it is refreshing to see a post once in a while of someone letting a large trophy bass go after they catch it.  Even when it was their personal best.  I know some are kept since it is the fish of a lifetime or some folks just want to fill the freezer.  For others it is the first time they ever caught a forty pound fish.  For a small group of anglers that drives them crazy.  Because when you kill that one big fish you didn’t kill one fish, you killed the potential for millions more in the future.  There is not an unlimited amount of large fish out there, the year classes are limited to what made it to that age and size.  Just something to think about next time you get that monster, take a picture and let her go to make more fish.  Besides the big fish are old (over 12 years) and don’t taste as good in my opinion and others.  The smaller legal fish taste better, are most likely to be a male fish, and have not been in the water as long, so they are less likely to be full of pollutants.

striped bass age chart, rockfish, delaware, sussex county
Striped bass age chart. Rough estimate for fish that have spent a season in one area, run fish could be heavier or lighter.
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Delaware’s consumption advisory for striped bass is two eight ounce fillets a year, small children and women of child bearing years should not eat them at all due to PCBs.  Unfortunately there isn’t a label on a fish to tell where it originated and we have many a striped bass that are born in the Delaware Bay and then recruit to the migration.  We also have some very large bass that never leave and are resident fish, they are marinating in that water for a longtime.  Maryland has their own consumption advisories but they are not as strict as Delaware’s.   They also have issues with PCBs.  Maryland consumption advisory is for three meals (the size of two decks of cards) per month for fish less than 28 inches. For fish  larger than 28 inches, MD advises no more than one meal per month, for the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries, and the coastal waters of Maryland.  The advisory is the same for children under the age of six and women of childbearing age (women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, or are nursing).  New Jersey consumption advisories are coast wide and based on one eight ounce meal, and to only eat one per month.  That is a small piece of fish compared to the size being caught.  Delaware has the strictest advisories but only for the Delaware bay and river, not the coastal waters.  Just something to think about the next time you boat a big girl, take the picture and let her go.

Fish On!

Rich King

 

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