The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced that Delaware’s recreational striped bass size limit regulation has been revised effective May 21 to ensure compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) emergency action taken earlier this month. The revision changes the recreational striped bass size limit from a slot of 28 to 35 inches to a smaller 28-to-31-inch slot.
Slot limits are increasingly used in fisheries management for conservation of species on the rebound from diminished stocks. The rationale behind a slot limit is that it will protect fish too small to have spawned and reproduced – as are most striped bass smaller than 28 inches in length – while allowing larger fish of the species above the slot limit, most of them fecund females, to continue to reproduce.
The ASMFC took the emergency action in response to the unprecedented magnitude of 2022 recreational striper harvest (3,482,819 fish), which nearly doubled that of 2021 (1,858,386 fish). In weighing the 2022 recreational harvest alongside ASMFC’s new stock rebuilding projections, the estimated probability of striper spawning stock rebuilding to a 2029 target dropped from 97% under the lower 2021 recreational fishing mortality rate to less than 15% if the 2022 mortality rate were to continue each year.
The emergency 31-inch maximum size limit slot for 2023 is expected to reduce harvest of the strong 2015-year striped bass class, which will enable the opportunity for more fish from the exceptional 2015 to spawn. There is no change through ASMFC’s emergency or DNREC’s regulatory revision to Delaware’s one-striped bass possession limit or to the recreational striper season, which is open year-round.
In addition, the ASMFC emergency action does not affect Delaware’s summer striped bass slot season – which allows anglers fishing Delaware River, Delaware Bay, and the tidal tributaries of the river and bay to possess one striped bass 20 to 25 inches long daily from July 1 through Aug. 31.
The new size limit can be found in the online version of the 2023 Delaware Fishing Guide. For more information about the revised regulation, anglers can call the DNREC Fisheries Section at 739-9914.