Catch and Release of Striped Bass
Catch and Release Kills Stripers!
I am asked many times a year “when we catch our limit of stripers are we done”, I have always tried to explain the reasons why we shouldn't, and most people understand and agree that we have to protect the fisheries not only for my livelihood but for our children and their children to come.
A study has shown that recreational anglers may be killing over 1.3 million striped bass a year unintentionally, these are fish that are hooked in the mouth (not gut or gill hooked) and it’s due to the stress and trauma of the catch.
Research conducted at the Texas Tech Department of Range, Wildlife, and Fisheries Management published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management their findings on hooking mortality of some 1,200 striped bass, a huge and quite meaningful sample size from fish caught and released from across the southern United States. They pulled information from previous hooking mortality studies done in North and South Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas. The findings could have implications to striper fisheries across the country.
Dr. Gene Wilde led the research looking into how type of baits and water temperature affected the mortality rate of striped bass practicing catch and release. The study essentially asked: Are fish caught on live baits more susceptible to die from injury than one caught on artificial baits? And temperature, the warmer the water the worse for wears? Here's what Dr. Wilde and his team’s research found.
Regardless of bait type, 29 percent of striped bass caught and released died within three days. But compared between bait types, it was higher for fish caught on live baits, 42 percent. For artificial baits mortality was a much lower 25 percent.
But bait type alone didn't explain the variation. Water temperature figures prominently in whether fish will survive. Simply put, the warmer the water, the more likely a released striper is to perish, regardless of size. Water temperatures climbing into the 80s, nearly 70 percent of stripers caught on natural baits and 57 percent caught on artificial baits, perished.
According to Dr. Wilde, the exact implications of his findings to striper populations will vary from water to water, but to him, one thing is clear.
"Our results do call into question catch-and-release fishing, especially in summer," said Wilde. Catch and release is viewed as having little effect on populations, but when more than 30 percent of fish die, even in cooler water, I have a hard time justifying releasing fish.
This evidence is convincing to me and I hope it is for you. When and how you fish for stripers has a lasting impact on our fisheries. According to Wilde's research, we do have a choice. Go out, have fun, try to catch your limit, and come back another day to do it all over again