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Striped bass spring trophy season canceled in the Chesapeake Bay

FORT MONROE - In an attempt to get ahead of pending changes to striped bass regulations, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to cancel the upcoming spring trophy season in the Chesapeake Bay.

Anglers still will be able to catch and keep two rockfish measuring between 20 and 28 inches long from May 16 through June 15. All catches must be reported to the VMRC.

Late last year, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission determined that the coastal striped bass population had been overfished and that overfishing was still taking place. The commission is expected to issue amendments to its regulations that will force states to cut back on their catches.

Virginia commissioners decided that recommendations from staff and members of the Finfish Management Advisory Committee to get ahead of changes were in order. The commission voted 7-0 to cancel the seasons.

"This action was taken just for this season, but more actions are coming," said VMRC Deputy Commissioner Ellen Bolen. "Nothing for this fall or next spring has been decided yet."

Virginia angling interest in the spring trophy season is limited, largely in part because so many other species are migrating into the area.

And while nearly 70 percent of the members of the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association agreed to support the cancellation, most admit their support was only because few participate in the season.

"I was personally against it in favor of a coast-wide plan," said association president Mike Avery. "But we did a poll and presented the results as that."

Avery said that for Virginia to voluntarily take away parts of a fishery that account for only 3.3% of the coastal quota makes no sense.

"So we went from, what, taking 3.3% to maybe 3.1%?" he wondered. "Maryland takes about 40 percent of the quota and they've done nothing.

"This was just a feel-good exercise for Virginia."

Avery said his membership also was concerned that there was no motion to cut back on the commercial take.

"We're very opposed to taking stuff away from recreational anglers with no discussion of the commercial fishery," he said.

The bigger changes to the fishery are forthcoming, when the ASMFC amends its striped bass management plan later this year. Sweeping changes are likely and states that participate in the fishery are currently batting around numerous options to lower the take.

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