What’s Going on with the NJ Striped Bass Bonus Program?
NJDEP Suspends Party/Charter Boat Facet of the Striped Bass Bonus Program
by Tom Vassallo
On June 8th, effective immediately, the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife is indefinitely suspending the Party/Charter Boat facet of the Striped Bass Bonus Program (SBBP).
This does not impact the individual recreational angler facet of the SBBP nor does it affect the current recreational fisheries regulations for striped bass. Therefore, recreational anglers without a SBBP permit, including those fishing on for-hire vessels, can still harvest two striped bass per day at 28 inches or larger. Party/Charter Boat anglers can still harvest a ‘bonus’ bass IF they obtain a SBBP permit from the Division’s web site prior to their fishing trip and have the permit in possession while fishing on the for-hire vessel.
Beginning on September 1, 2015, the new NJ Striped Bass Bonus Program regulations will be:
ONE FISH 24″ TO LESS THAN 28″ from September 1 to December 31 ONLY
All current permit holders will receive a notice that the old permits are no longer valid and will automatically receive a new permit prior to September 1, 2015.
The NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife also says in the release, that suspending this facet of the SBBP is one of a number of shifts in resources and staffing necessary to adequately address “higher priority programs” and responsibilities identified through a Marine Fisheries Administration reprioritization process. Marine fisheries related job responsibilities are being prioritized based upon five different criteria: Fishery Management Plan Compliance Criteria, Federal Funding, Recreational Fishery In-State Rank, Commercial Fishery In-State Rank and Bureau Priority.
Some of the highest priority responsibilities include mandatory compliance programs required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission fishery management plans, coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service on the national Marine Recreational Information Program and various existing and new data collection programs.
Suspending the Party/Charter Boat facet of the SBBP allows a significant shift of personnel and resources to higher priority responsibilities while still providing Party/Charter Boat anglers the opportunity to keep a “bonus” striped bass. The Division is grateful to those Party/Charter Boats that participated in the SBBP over the years and grateful for the information those boats provided. The Striped Bass Bonus Program (SBBP) has been an integral part of New Jersey’s striped bass management since 1990. It is a popular program with the fishing community and provides valuable data for assessing stock status and fishing trends. The Division of Fish and Wildlife (Division) initiated the program in 1990 to allow the harvest of an additional striped bass for New Jersey recreational anglers. Although the program has been modified throughout the years, the main goal of the SBBP is to allow anglers to participate in the management process while enjoying their favorite recreational pastime.
New Jersey is allocated a commercial harvest quota of striped bass under the Striped Bass Interstate Fisheries Management Plan as administered by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Since New Jersey does not allow netting or sale of striped bass, this quota was transferred to the recreational fishing sector resulting in the origin of the SBBP. The current allocation from ASMFC is 215,912 pounds to be distributed between individual anglers and party/charter boats. Should NJ overshoot this quota in 2015, any overage would be subtracted from the 2016 quota. Although this program does allow for the harvest of an additional striped bass for New Jersey recreational anglers, the Division encourages catch and release whenever possible so this species can prosper for future generations.
New Jersey recreational striped bass regulations have been modified in all state waters to the following:
ONE FISH 28″ TO LESS THAN 43″ AND ONE FISH 43″ OR GREATER
IN order to take a bonus striped bass, each individual angler must now be in possession of the bonus permit whether fishing on their own or fishing on a charter or party boat. After obtaining the bonus permit, individual anglers, charter boat clients and party boat clients, would be allowed to keep one fish 24 inches to less than 28 inches from September 1 to December 31 ONLY. Please note the order of fish harvested does not matter (Bonus fish can be the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd fish). It is always best to visit the Marine section of the Regulations page to check current Federal and State possession and season regulations for striped bass fishing in your area. You can find that information at the “NJ REGS” link on the FishinJersey web site in the links at the top of the page.
Participants in the Bonus Program can receive immediate notification of regulation updates, emergency closures, special notices, etc., by subscribing to the free NJ Marine Fishing E-mail List. For details, visit the E-mail List Subscription page.
The new permits are currently not being issued, but New Jersey anglers who have not possessed a bonus permit and wish to obtain one, may fill out applications for the SBBP and mail them in now (remember…if you had one last year you will AUTOMATICALLY receive the new permit). If not, you may print one out now at the following link:
Return the completed form with a self-addressed stamped #10 envelope to the Division. All applicants must complete the Child Support Certification each year. See http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/child_support_info.htm for details.
Information on the SBBP Harvest Reporting and SBBP Striped Bass Fishing Logs will be announced as soon as they are finalized.