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PFBC Amends Atlantic Striped Bass Regulations

HARRISBURG, Pa – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) today announced changes to Striped Bass fishing regulations within the Delaware Estuary, Delaware River, and West Branch Delaware River.

Harvest and delayed mortality of caught and released Striped Bass have reduced the coastal population below levels needed to sustain high-quality recreational angling experiences. Due to the negative impact on the fishery, harvest and terminal tackle restrictions are needed to help rebuild the coastal stock.

In accordance with a fisheries management plan adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board intended to reduce fishing mortality by 18%, the PFBC will change minimum size requirements and slot limits for harvesting Striped Bass in the Delaware Estuary, Delaware River, and West Branch Delaware River, and enact a mandatory circle hook requirement for anglers using bait while fishing for all species within the Delaware Estuary. These changes are effective beginning April 1, 2020.

These regulation changes, tackle and registration requirements do not apply to inland populations of Striped Bass or Hybrid Striped Bass. Please see the 2020 Pennsylvania Fishing Summary Book for minimum size and creel limits for inland waters.

Minimum Size Limits for Harvesting Striped Bass (coastal)

Under the new minimum size limits, anglers will be permitted to harvest one Striped Bass per day that measures at least 28 inches but less than 35 inches in the Delaware Estuary (from the Pennsylvania line upstream to Calhoun Street Bridge) during the periods January 1 through March 31 and June 1 through December 31. During the period from April 1 through May 31, anglers may harvest two Striped Bass daily that measure at least 21 inches but less than 24 inches. In the Delaware River (from the Calhoun Street Bridge upstream) anglers will be permitted to harvest one Striped Bass per day that measures at least 28 inches but less than 35 inches year-round.

Non-Offset (In-line) Circle Hook Requirement

To further meet the requirements of the ASMFC, the PFBC will require anglers who use bait to fish in the tidal Delaware Estuary, including tributaries from the mouths of the tributaries upstream to the limit of tidal influence, to use non-offset (in-line) circle hooks. The use of non-offset (in-line) circle hooks is required over offset circle hooks because of their proven ability to hook fish in the mouth, simplify hook removal, and reduce injury to the released fish. Therefore, to address targeted and non-targeted Striped Bass release mortality, the circle hook requirement will apply to anglers targeting any fish species with bait in the tidal Delaware Estuary. This measure offers added protection to adult Striped Bass on the spawning grounds during spring and year-round protections to resident juvenile Striped Bass caught by anglers targeting other species in the tidal reach. For the non-tidal Delaware River, non-offset (in-line) circle hooks are strongly recommended when anglers target any species with bait.

Pennsylvania Saltwater Angler Registry Program

In addition to taking note of new regulations, anglers fishing in the Delaware Estuary must register with the Pennsylvania Saltwater Angler Registry Program. PA-SARP allows both NOAA and the PFBC to monitor angler use in the Estuary. Pennsylvania resident anglers may register online at www.pa-sarp.pa.gov. Additionally, if fishing in New Jersey waters, anglers should follow New Jersey regulations and register for NJ SRRP.

Social Distancing Recommendations

In accordance with direction provided by the Governor, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the CDC, the PFBC recommends that anglers practice social distancing while fishing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

· When bank fishing or wading, please keep a distance of at least 6 feet between you and the nearest angler.

· A good rule of thumb is that if you can turn your rod perpendicular on all sides of you without hitting anyone, that is a safe distance.

· If fishing with a child or children, advise them to not wander into the personal space of other anglers.

· Refrain from carpooling. Sharing a vehicle with others could put you at risk.

· Avoid crowds. If you arrive at your fishing spot that is crowded, find another location.

· Avoid sharing fishing gear with anyone. Each angler is advised to have their own fishing gear (bait, bait container, waders, gloves, hand towels, clippers, pliers, or other personal items).

· Remember to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; to clean your gear after using it; and to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after fishing.

· If you are fishing at a state or local park, the restrooms may be closed to protect staff and visitors. Use the bathroom before you visit or dispose of waste properly. Carry out any trash, since there are limited staff at these facilities.

· Purchase your fishing license online at www.fishandboat.com.

· Continue to follow the guidance from the CDC below:

• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

• Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.

• Clean surfaces frequently.

• Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.