New Striped Bass and Mountain Trout Regulations Go into Effect July 1

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New Striped Bass Regulations Go into Effect July 1RALEIGH, N.C. (June 18, 2008)– New regulations affecting striped bass anglers fishing in eastern North Carolina rivers and trout anglers fishing in public mountain trout waters will go into effect July 1.

Two striped bass regulations, which were developed jointly by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, are designed to conserve spawning stock by reducing harvest and catch-and-release mortality.

The first regulation prohibits the harvest of striped bass in the inland and joint fishing waters of the Cape Fear River and its tributaries year-round. The second regulation reduces the daily creel limit to two fish, prohibits harvest of fish between 22 and 27 inches in length and establishes an Oct. 1 to April 30 harvest period for the inland and joint fishing waters of the Tar-Pamlico, Neuse and Pungo rivers and other rivers and waters in the Coastal Plain, except the Roanoke River/Albermarle Sound striped bass management area and the Cape Fear River.

Electrofishing surveys conducted since 1994 in the Neuse and Tar rivers and 2003 in the Cape Fear River indicate excessive striped bass mortality rates. Estimates of fishing mortality in these waters have greatly exceeded the rate necessary for population growth and sustainability and striped bass populations are well below their potential. Although fish larger than 27 inches in length are found occasionally, the population is dominated by younger, smaller fish. Surveys found that these smaller fish quickly drop out of the population in subsequent years.

The protective slot limit of 22 to 27 inches will protect 5- to-8-year old sexually maturing female striped bass and the 7-month harvest season will concentrate harvest during cooler months when water temperatures are below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and catch-and-release mortality is relatively low.

“By avoiding harvest during the primary spawning month of May, when water temperatures begin to exceed 70 degrees, we hope to provide maximum protection to the spawning populations, ensuring the longer-term viability of North Carolina’s striped bass fisheries,” said Bob Curry, chief of the Commission’s Division of Inland Fisheries.

A new regulation that will affect anglers fishing in public mountain trout waters clearly defines what types of lures are allowable when trout fishing on waters that require anglers to use only artificial lures. As of July 1, natural bait will be defined as any living or dead organism (plant or animal) or prepared substance designed to attract fish by taste or smell, while artificial lures will be defined as bait that neither contains nor has been treated with any substance that attracts fish by the sense of taste or smell.

The regulation does not prohibit the use of unscented or untreated soft plastic baits, and it does not affect trout fishing in “Hatchery-Supported” or “Wild Trout/Natural Bait” Trout Waters.

Several factors led to the implementation of this new regulation: the 2006 repeal of the legislation that defined natural bait; angler confusion over the classification of flavored and scented baits and biologists’ concerns about the increased catch-and-release mortality attributed to attractant baits.

“With new attractant lures coming on the market every year and no definition of what comprised natural bait and artificial lures in the North Carolina statutes or regulation digest, anglers have had a lot of questions,” Curry said. “This rule change allows people to clearly distinguish between natural and artificial lures.”

Originally, artificial lure requirements were implemented on certain trout streams to minimize catch-and-release angling mortality, a requirement that is particularly important in delayed-harvest streams where each stocked trout is expected to be captured and released multiple times during the 8-month catch-and-release period.

The use of natural bait-mimicking substances has become increasingly popular on delayed-harvest streams and other artificial lures-only waters, and research suggests that these baits can lead to increased catch-and-release hooking mortality because of deep-hooking wounds. Deep-hooking wounds usually result when trout ingest bait deep into the esophagus or stomach.

The new rule defining natural bait and artificial lures received widespread public support during the Commission’s public hearings in January. Also, a 2007 survey of resident trout anglers indicated that more anglers opposed (44 percent) the use of artificial bait substances in delayed-harvest waters than supported it (33 percent).

For more information on these new regulations, click here. Also available for free download is the 2008-2009 North Carolina Inland Fishing, Hunting, & Trapping Regulations Digest.

For more information on fishing in the state’s public, inland waters, visit the Commission’s Web site or call the Division of Inland Fisheries, (919) 707-0220.