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The Tribulations of Roadside Trash and Striper Slots

Rhode Island’s Trout Unlimited Chapter spent half a sweet Spring Saturday picking up other people’s trash and the American Saltwater Guides Association pushed through a much needed striped bass slot size change. This week it’s big trash on the roadside and smaller slots to build striper abundance. Bingo.

TU is a conservation group that also loves to go fishing so several times a year, they gather with a promise of Lawson Carey’s chicken soup, don semi-attractive and always inside-out reflective vests, then walk sides of a busy Route 165 in Exeter, Rhode Island. Based on survey results, the good folks in Exeter are drinking some better canned beer but they still throw far too many nips out their windows.

Trash on a pretty roadside

Typically, Bud Light rules roadsides, but lately sales have transitioned downward. Apparently those who identify as driving while drinking types are offended by recent corporate marketing and are protesting by either purchasing less or recycling more. I’ll bet on the former. South Kingstown’s Whalers Brewing made a strong showing in ditches and vernal pools because nothing says supporting locals like enjoying a fine APA then tossing the aluminum into a shallow pool of struggling tadpoles.

Big Piles of Trash On A Pretty Exeter Road

I stepped over a small, deflated adult party balloon on some hard road shoulder. It hadn’t been there long, based on its small, shiny surface. I’m not sure how someone can eject a small, thin balloon out a car window where the speed limit is 45 and people drive 65 but based on its size, I would guess it wasn’t a very big party. With apologies to Mother Nature, I made the decision to leave it.

Dunkin’ packaging was everywhere. I try to imagine most roadside trash blows innocently out of pickups but when considering how many bags, napkins, plastic cutlery and cups originated from the once local donut counter, there’s just no way. If Dunkin’ can afford to label a civic center and print precise instructions on iced mocha lattes with six Splenda, five creams, 295 grams of caffeine (an average cup of coffee has 95) and a charge of butter pecan swirl (because it’s probably totally fine to intake 258% of your daily sugars in one drink that you can later fire out the window before returning to an apartment in your parent’s basement), maybe they could print customer’s names on the cups. That way, when good people volunteer their time to pick up other people’s trash, they could at least try to return it to them.

Of the 12 garbage bags collected, nips still were the biggest item. Regular Fish Wrap readers surely know how I feel about these unnecessary plastic nuisances. Somehow, with often just a one dollar purchase price, they come complete with a privilege to eject them with a small party balloon and care not about their impact on our world. There is a very sad irony here that people trash a roadside with plastic, because they’re lazy, along the edge of the Arcadia Management Area, where the rest of us go to escape the smells of artificial caramel and signs of man’s, gender neutral here, careless disregard for a larger world.  Since the bill to ban those forever unrecyclable plastic nightmares seems stalled, maybe there remains time in the legislative calendar to ban open car windows. That would solve issues of morons throwing nips out windows, keep adult party balloons in the trash and let TU members go fishing.

From trout to stripers, here’s a guide to the new striped bass slot limit.

Now too big to keep

Abstract: According to the ASMFC, “In 2021, the Atlantic striped bass stock was overfished but was not experiencing overfishing. Female spawning stock biomass 2021 was estimated at 64,805 metric tons (143 million pounds) which is below the updated SSB threshold of 85,457 metric tons (188 million pounds), and below the updated SSB target of 106,820 metric tons (235 million pounds).” Under pressure from a wide variety of anglers, a reduced slot limit for retaining breeding aged stripers has been implemented as an emergency measure.

Big Trash, Smaller Slots

Keywords:  ASMFC (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission), Striped bass (Morone saxatilis), ASGA (American Saltwater Guides Association), Conservation, TAC (Total Allowable Catch), F (Mortality), SSB (Spawning Stock Biomass), Fecundity (Fertility), MSY (Maximum Sustainable Yield. The amount of fish which can be removed from a population without causing long term damage.)

Slot Sizes For Stripers Reduce Mortality, Build Abundance

Problem:  Striped bass are popular target for their fight when hooked and mild flavor when cooked. A 28” bass is typically six years old and weighs approximately ten pounds. Females are fecund between four and eight years old; males are between two and four years. The MSY was in doubt after reevaluated data. From 2018-2021, recreational release mortality made up 50% of total removals, with recreational harvest making up 37% and commercial harvest making of 11% of the total. Mortality after release is estimated to be 9%. Recreational anglers often release fish which, due to temperature, stress and/or time out of water, still die post-release.

Solution: To lower mortality, harvest reductions of 25% (2015)  and 18% (2020), mandatory circle hooks for bait, fin clipping and a recreational slot limit of 28”-35”  were implemented. Updated data showed the striped bass population was not being rebuilt according to the ASMFC timeframe. “The retrospective pattern remained moderate to low in magnitude for the assessment update, but reversed direction compared to the benchmark; the model underestimated F and overestimated SSB in the most recent peels.” It cannot be underestimated that creating sound fisheries regulations is difficult. Trawl surveys, data points, climate chaos, shifting populations and the politics of dancing with a motley crew of influences, suggestions and demands combine to make final decisions often unpopular and unproductive over the long term.

To address new data and insert real time local knowledge, the ASGA made a Herculean, last minute, emergency conservation effort to keep everyone’s focus on population health and abundance.

According to the ASMFC, “The Commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board approved an emergency action to implement a 31-inch maximum size limit for striped bass recreational fisheries, effective immediately for 180 days. This action responds to the unprecedented magnitude of 2022 recreational harvest, which is nearly double that of 2021, and new stock rebuilding projections, which estimate the probability of the spawning stock rebuilding to its biomass target by 2029 drops from 97% under the lower 2021 fishing mortality rate to less than 15% if the higher 2022 fishing mortality rate continues each year.”

So now we are lucky to have a reduced slot limit with the potential for more fish being released safely. That’s the path to abundance, and it’s not paved with plastic.

4 Comments

  1. Bob m

    Thanks to all those (trout unlimited Narragansett chapter included) everywhere that pick up other peoples messes. I don’t think we will ever solve the slob problem, but with so many willing to clean up after slobs, we can live in a much cleaner environment. With regard to the striper regulation changes, amen brother, keep up the good work todd

    • Todd Corayer

      Thanks Bob. It’s gratifying to restore a road, however temporarily, but even more so to restore a fishery. I hope the striper rule change works. And I hope people stop throwing their trash out windows. And of course, thanks for reading. I do appreciate that.

  2. Ronald Simmons

    Lots of us landlocked fisherfolks love slot-sized stripers. Both in the water and cast iron pan.

    I have a 41 pounder mounted and only keep and eat the slotters. A four pound striper on a 3″ Spook is a fine day in Texas.

  3. Ronald Simmons

    Lots of us landlocked fisherfolks love slot-sized stripers. Both in the water and cast iron pan.

    I have a 41 pounder mounted and only keep and eat the slotters. A four pound striper on a 3″ Spook is a fine day in Texas.

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