Striped Bass Emergency Action Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

DMF adopted new regulations for the recreational striped bass fishery in 2023. Under these regulations, recreational anglers may take one fish per day in a slot limit of 28" to less than 31". These rules will stay in place until further notice, through the end of 2024 at least. Read below to find out more about these changes and why they were adopted.

On May 2, 2023, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board (Board) voted to take emergency action to implement a 31" maximum size limit for all recreational striped bass fisheries coastwide. This resulted in a one fish at 28" to less than 31" size slot limit for the ocean recreational striped bass fisheries, including in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) enacted emergency recreational regulations to change the maximum length limit for keeping striped bass in Massachusetts on May 26, 2023. The Board also voted to initiate an Addendum to examine if additional recreational and commercial measures were needed for 2024 to meet the 2029 deadline to rebuild striped bass. Addendum II was approved on January 24, 2024, and continues the 28–31" slot limit for the ocean recreational fisheries, in addition to establishing new Chesapeake Bay recreational limits and reducing commercial quotas coastwide. A Stock Assessment Update for striped bass is underway in 2024 and will guide measures for 2025.   

This FAQ addresses common questions about the actions taken by the Board, why they were taken, and what will happen as a result. If you have additional questions not addressed in the FAQ, please reach out to DMF at

Table of Contents

Why was an Emergency Action taken in 2023?

The basis for taking emergency action in 2023 was that striped bass recreational harvest coastwide nearly doubled in 2022. This unexpectedly high harvest greatly reduced the probability of rebuilding the currently overfished striped bass stock by 2029, which is the goal of the interstate management plan. Put another way, so many more striped bass were caught in 2022 than were expected that the existing measures to ensure striped bass remain plentiful for years to come no longer appeared effective. The main reason for the increase in harvest was that striped bass from the abundant 2015 year-class, those fish born in 2015, had begun to reach harvestable size under the 2022 slot limit (28" to <35"). Like people, fish grow at different rates and in 2023, the 2015 year-class was expected to be almost entirely recruited into this size range. This meant nearly all would be available for harvest if the slot remained 28" to <35", suggesting the potential for even greater recreational harvest in 2023 without swift action to amend the slot limit.

The 2015 year-class is important to the future of striped bass because it is one of the few large year-classes that has been produced in the past 20 years. Striped bass can survive more than 30 years and spawn more than 20 times, and this capability evolved in stripers (and many other fish) to compensate for years when the weather or other factors would lead to poor survival of their young. Since 2005, survival of newborn striped bass has been mostly below average, including the past five years which are among the lowest recorded (see figure). With fewer surviving striped bass born in the years before and after 2015, it is important for as many bass from the 2015 year-class to grow to spawning size and have as many opportunities to reproduce (and hopefully create additional strong year-classes) as possible if we hope to recover the stock and maintain a strong fishery in our coastal waters.

What is the rationale for a 31" maximum size limit?

The 2015 year-class turned 8 years old in 2023, with an average size of about 31 ½" in length. DMF age data from recreational samples suggested that the new 28" to less than 31" slot along the coast would protect more than half of the 2015 year-class from recreational harvest in 2023 (compared to very little protection with the 28" to <35" slot). This level of protection will increase in future years as these striped bass continue to grow. 

A figure comparing the old slot limit with the new slot limit for striped bass.

Figure: Comparison of the old slot (28" to <35") to the new slot (28" to <31").

The Board maintained a slot limit approach for several reasons, as opposed to transitioning to a higher minimum size (35" for example). When the Board originally went to a slot limit, the 28" minimum was maintained to make sure that shore-based anglers had opportunities to harvest striped bass, and this remains important. The application of a maximum size has had a lot of support among anglers as a way to protect the largest and most fecund female fish. Finally, beginning in 2024, the 2015 year-class will begin to shift into the greater than 34" grouping, meaning a higher minimum size alone would not be a good way to protect the 2015 year-class moving forward.

If striped bass are at risk of not rebuilding, why is the fishing so good?

Many anglers in Massachusetts enjoyed great success catching fish in the 28" to less than 35" slot in 2022, especially as compared to the first years it was in effect. This was directly tied to the highly abundant 2015 year-class, compared to the prior three years’ poor year classes. In 2022, a little more than half of the 2015 year-class had grown large enough to be harvested in the slot. DMF recreational sampling data indicate that the 2015 year-class made up 55% of harvested fish in 2022. Under the 28 to <31” slot in 2023, the 2015 year-class still contributed to superb catch and release fishing and many were still within the slot for anglers who wanted to harvest a fish.   
Fishing can also be very dependent on how much and how consistently bait is in state waters. For example, the extended presence of very large and predictable schools of menhaden in Massachusetts Bay in 2022 led to great fishing, but high harvests and catches. With the coastal resurgence of menhaden, anglers in many other states enjoyed similar great fishing, contributing to the surge in coastwide recreational harvest.

Were the recreational catch estimates reliable enough to justify the Emergency Action?

Annual estimates of recreational harvest and catch of striped bass are regarded as being among the most reliable for all species because of a large sample size. For instance, Massachusetts DMF alone collects striped bass catch data from over 4,000 anglers each year. As a result, the measure of uncertainty in the estimate is the lowest of all managed species. Whereas recreational catch estimates may have precision issues when evaluated at finer levels (i.e., by state, by season, or by angler fishing mode), we have complete confidence that the large increase in coastwide annual harvest in 2022 compared to 2021 was real, and the emergency action to reduce recreational harvest was justified.  

The survey methods of the national program used to estimate catch in marine recreational fisheries are constantly under review to enable continual improvement. The methods include two key components: a survey to estimate catch per trip and a survey to estimate fishing effort, which together can be used to estimate total catch. Last August, NOAA Fisheries, which oversees these recreational fishing surveys, announced the findings of a pilot study it conducted to evaluate potential sources of bias in the questionnaire design for the fishing effort survey. This study found switching the sequence of questions resulted in fewer reporting errors and fishing effort estimates that were generally 30 to 40 percent lower for shore and private boat modes than estimates produced from the current design. However, results varied significantly (by state and fishing mode) and because of the limited sample size, are not appropriate for management use. These results have prompted NOAA Fisheries to conduct a much larger follow-up study over the course of 2024. Even if we were to assume that striped bass recreational catch was overestimated by 30 to 40% over the timeframe, it would likely only change the amount of the biomass but not the overall downward trend in the population that we have seen since 2010. It would not change the fact that, using the same survey methodology, recreational harvest estimates nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022. The striped bass assessment will be updated in 2024 and it will explore how the possible overestimation of recreational catch may impact biomass and the measures that have been put in place to reduce fishery removals. 

Why was the Emergency Action taken without formal public input?

The information regarding the large increase in 2022 harvest only became available in March of 2023. The only way for the Striped Bass Board to react quickly to decrease the harvest for 2023 was to implement an Emergency Action. All other avenues of rulemaking would have taken many more months and the opportunity to protect the 2015 year-class at its peak vulnerability would have been lost. 

Prior to the May 2, 2023 meeting, the Striped Bass Board received thousands of public comments urging the Board to take swift and significant action to put the stock back on track to rebuild. Additionally, the ASMFC subsequently held four virtual public hearings on the emergency action and DMF also held a state-specific public hearing on the state’s implementation of the emergency measures. The Board also initiated an Addendum to consider management options after the Emergency Action’s expiration, ensuring a fully public process would inform measures for 2024 (see What happens to the management measures in 2024?).

Did all the states implement the Emergency Action?

The Striped Bass Management Board allowed states up to two months to implement the 31" maximum size limit after its adoption on May 2, 2023, as the states have different processes and requirements for enacting rule changes. All Atlantic coast states implemented the Emergency Action’s 31" maximum size limit by the July 2, 2023 deadline. In Massachusetts, DMF enacted emergency recreational regulations to change the maximum length limit for keeping striped bass on May 26, 2023, similar to the timing of other New England states.

Why didn’t the Emergency Action reduce commercial quotas?

In 2022, the commercial fishery, which is managed under a hard quota, had no increase in harvest while the recreational fishery harvest almost doubled. Therefore, the 2023 Emergency Action was directed at the sector that was responsible for the great increase from 2021 to 2022. However, the Board also committed to considering changes to the commercial measures for 2024 through an Addendum to the Striped Bass Management Plan that it initiated at the same time as the Emergency Action. Addendum II, approved in January 2024, included a 7% reduction in commercial quota (see What happens to the management measures in 2024?).

How did the Emergency Action affect the Chesapeake Bay recreational fisheries?

The 31" maximum size limit also applied to the Chesapeake Bay recreational fisheries. While the minimum recreational size in the Chesapeake Bay is smaller than the ocean fisheries— resulting in a wider slot limit—the 2015 year-class was still afforded the same protection in the Chesapeake Bay by the 31" maximum size limit. The Board’s emergency action exempted only a short, seasonal fishery for larger fish in the Chesapeake Bay in 2023 because this fishery had a minimum size limit (35") that already protects the 2015 year-class and the timing of the fishery (May 1–15) made it irrelevant to the action taken by the Board given the July 2, 2023 implementation deadline. The Chesapeake Bay rules would also be considered for revision in 2024 under Draft Addendum II (see What happens to the management measures in 2024?).  

Striped bass regulations in the Chesapeake Bay differ from coastal waters under a long-standing alternative management regime based on the species’ life history. The Chesapeake Bay is the main producer area of young striped bass, and those fish gradually begin to emigrate from the bay as they grow, with almost all bass becoming coastal migrants by the time they reach 34". This leads to bass larger than 28", and especially bass larger than 34", only being in the bay just before and during the spring spawning season. The remainder of the year the Chesapeake Bay is largely populated by smaller, not-yet migratory striped bass and regulations are tailored to allow anglers to pursue these fish. In 2023, the minimum recreational size limit in the Bay ranged between 18” and 20” depending on jurisdiction (Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, and Potomac River Fisheries Commission).

Won’t the narrower slot limit increase discard mortality?

Recreational discard mortality has become the primary component of overall striped bass fishing mortality in recent years so this is an important consideration in the species’ management. While the new 28" to less than 31" slot limit could be expected to result in more fish in the 31" to 35" size range being released, only a small portion of those fish die as a consequence of being caught and released—whereas all fish die when caught and kept. Using the accepted 9% discard mortality estimate for released striped bass, fish that would otherwise have been kept have a 91% reduction in mortality, and this reduction in harvest mortality was anticipated to offset the potential increase in discard mortality. A review of the 2023 catch data show that coastwide recreational fishery removals (harvest and dead discards combined) were about 20% lower than in 2022, in line with the Emergency Action’s objective.  

A figure showing that recent changes in striped bass mortality have been driven by harvest.

Additionally, anglers can—and should—play a part in minimizing discard mortality with proper fish handling and release techniques. DMF encourages anglers to educate themselves on best handling practices to maximize survival of striped bass after the catch. DMF has also been studying the post-release mortality of striped bass and is currently seeking participants for a citizen science project to improve estimates of post-release mortality in the striped bass fishery.

How long are the Emergency Action measures effective?

ASMFC Emergency Actions are temporary and must be replaced by a formal management plan change (i.e., Amendment or Addendum), otherwise the measures revert to those previously in place upon the Emergency Action’s expiration date. When first adopted, the Emergency Action would have been in place for 180 days—through October 28, 2023. However, in August 2023, the Board extended the Emergency Action for an additional year—through October 28, 2024—unless sooner replaced by new management under Addendum II (which it had initiated in May 2023 at the same time as approving the Emergency Action). On January 24, 2024, the Board approved Addendum II to the Fishery Management Plan with an effective date of May 1, 2024. This means that the Emergency Action expired on April 30, 2024. However, Addendum II continues the 28–31” slot limit for the coastal recreational fishery (see What happens to the management measures in 2024?).

What happens to the management measures in 2024?

In May of 2023, the Striped Bass Board also voted to initiate an Addendum to the management plan to consider what measures were needed for 2024 to achieve the fishing mortality target so that the stock can stay on track to rebuild by 2029. This more typical management pathway provides for multiple options to be considered and public comment to be heard and incorporated into the decision-making process. The Board specified that changes to both the commercial and recreational fishery measures considered and options developed. The Board used its next two meetings to refine the range of alternatives and approved Draft Addendum II for public comment at their October meeting. Fifteen public hearings were held coastwide during November and December, including two in Massachusetts. Over 2800 comment letters plus the oral testimony from 693 hearing attendees were reviewed by the Board in January 2024, prior to their taking final action on management measures for 2024 under Addendum II.  

Addendum II adopts the following with a May 1, 2024 implementation deadline:  

  • For the ocean recreational fishery, a 28–31” slot limit, 1-fish bag limit, and the seasons in place in 2022;
  • For the Chesapeake Bay recreational fishery, a 19–24” slot limit, 1-fish bag limit, and the seasons in place in 2022;  
  • Two requirements for states that authorize filleting in a recreational fishery: racks must be retained, and not more than two fillets per legal fish can be possessed;  
  • For the commercial fisheries, 7% reductions to the state-by-state ocean quotas and the shared Chesapeake Bay quota; and  
  • A mechanism allowing the Board to respond to a stock assessment with new management measures via Board action (rather than the addendum process) if the stock is not projected to rebuild by 2029.  

As announced by DMF on February 2, 2024 (advisory) Addendum II requires Massachusetts to: 

  1. Maintain the recreational fishery’s one fish at 28" to less than 31" slot limit, year-round. 
  2. Reduce the state’s commercial striped bass quota by 7%, from 735,240 pounds to 683,773 pounds, with no change to the 35" minimum size limit. 
  3. Revise the state’s allowance for captains and crew of for-hire fishing vessels to fillet striped bass for their customers to include a requirement that the racks (i.e., carcasses) be retained. 

Only the third item above requires a change to the state’s fishery management regulations. Due to the implementation deadline, DMF used its emergency rulemaking authority to revise the state’s recreational striped bass filleting rules for compliance with Addendum II and to improve their enforceability effective May 1, 2024. See DMF’s striped bass filleting advisory for more details. These emergency regulations are subject to public comment prior to being made permanent. See DMF’s public hearing notice for details on providing comment at a May 20, 2024 hearing or in writing. The hearing will be held online to allow stakeholders from all areas of the Commonwealth to participate and offer comments.

Motions approved by the ASMFC Management Board

Motion to implement Emergency Action for 2023 management (May 2, 2023): 

Move that the Striped Bass Board, by emergency action as outlined in the Commission’s ISFMP Charter, implement a 31" maximum size to all existing recreational fishery regulations where a higher (or no) maximum size applies, excluding the Chesapeake Bay trophy fisheries. All other recreational size limits, possession limits, seasons, gear restrictions, and spawning protections remain in place. Jurisdictions are required to implement compliant measures as soon as possible and no later than July 2, 2023.

Motion to initiate Addendum II for 2024 management (May 2, 2023): 

Move to initiate an Addendum to implement commercial and recreational measures for the ocean and Chesapeake Bay fisheries in 2024 that in aggregate are projected to achieve F-target from the 2022 stock assessment update (F = 0.17). Potential measures for the ocean recreational fishery should include modifications to the Addendum VI standard slot limit of 28-35" with harvest season closures as a secondary non-preferred option. Potential measures for Chesapeake Bay recreational fisheries, as well as ocean and Bay commercial fisheries should include maximum size limits. The addendum will include an option for a provision enabling the Board to respond via Board action to the results of the upcoming stock assessment updates (e.g., currently scheduled for 2024, 2026) if the stock is not projected to rebuild by 2029 with a probability greater than or equal to 50%.

Motion to extend the Emergency Action (August 1, 2023): 

Move to extend the Board’s May 2, 2023 emergency action of 31" maximum recreational size limit for one year or until the implementation of Addendum II, whichever comes first, effective October 28, 2023. 

Motions to refine the drafted range of options for Draft Addendum II (August 1, 2023): 

Move to amend Chesapeake Bay Recreational Options B, D and H to include maximum size limit options ranging from 23" to 26" in 1" increments and remove all other options. 

Move to add new options to section 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 to Draft Addendum II that allow for mode splitting. These are options B, C, and D as defined in the PDT memo to the board dated July 17, 2023 for section 3.1.1 and options H as defined in the PDT memo to the board dated July 17, 2023 for section 3.1.2.

Move to replace Ocean Recreational Option B with the slot limit of 28" to 31" with no seasonal harvest closures and remove Option C and D. 

Move to remove Options sets B and C from Section 3.2.1 (Options for Implementing a Commercial Maximum Size Limit) from Draft Addendum II. Task the PDT with conducting spawning potential analysis to determine quota reductions, using 2022 as the starting point, associated with each Option in Option sets D (Ocean Commercial Maximum Size Limits) and E (Chesapeake Bay Commercial Maximum Size Limits). Add an option to require maximum mesh sizes for gillnets and exempt them from maximum size limits. Add a new Option Set to Section 3.2.1 containing the following options for reductions to commercial quotas: 

  • Option A. Status Quo. All commercial fisheries maintain 2017 size limits (or Addendum VI approved CE plans) and Amendment 7 quotas (or Addendum VI approved CE-adjusted quotas). 
  • Option B. Commercial Quota Reductions. Quotas for all commercial fisheries will be reduced up to 14.5% from 2022 commercial quotas (including quotas adjusted through approved Addendum VI CE plans). 

Move to add the at-sea filleting options from the PDT memo.

Motions to further refine and approve Draft Addendum II for public comment (October 18, 2023):

Move to remove from section 3.1.2 (Chesapeake Bay Recreational Options) of Draft Addendum II, Alternative Set B (B1 - B4), Alternative Set C (C1-C4), E4, and E3.
Motion to add the following options to section 3.1.1. Ocean Recreational Fishery:

  • Option D. 1 fish at 30” to 33” with 2022 seasons (all modes) (12.8% overall reduction, 45% harvest reduction and 2% increase in release mortality)
  • Option E. 1 fish at 30” to 33” with 2022 seasons for private vessel/shore anglers; 1 fish at 28”- 33” with 2022 seasons for the for-hire mode.

Move to add an option that any for-hire mode specific limit optioned in Section 3.1, Recreational Fishery Management, applies only to patrons during a for-hire trip; captain and crew during a for-hire trip are subject to the private vessel/shore angler limits.
Motion to remove section 3.2.2 Commercial Maximum Size Limit options and 3.2.3 Gill Net Exemption options from Draft Addendum II.
Motion to approve Draft Addendum II for public comment as modified today.

Motions to approve Addendum II (January 24, 2024): 

Move to approve in Section 3.1.1 Ocean Recreational Fishery Option B: 1 fish at 28” to 31” with 2022 seasons for all modes. 

Move to approve in Section 3.1.2 Chesapeake Bay Recreational Fishery Option B2: 19” to 24” slot, 1 fish for all modes, 2022 seasons. 

Move to approve in Section 3.1.4 Recreational Filleting Allowance Requirements Option B: For states that authorize at-sea/shore-side filleting of striped bass, establish minimum requirements, including requirements for racks to be retained and possession to be limited to no more than two fillets per legal fish. 

Move to approve in Section 3.2.1 Commercial Quota Reduction Option B: 7% reduction from ocean and Chesapeake Bay 2022 quotas with 2022 size limits. 

Move to approve in Section 3.3 Response to Stock Assessments Option B: Board could respond via Board action to change management measures by voting to pass a motion at a Board meeting. 

Move to approve the following compliance schedule: 

  • States must submit implementation plans by March 1, 2024. 
  • The Board will review and consider approving implementation plans in March 2024. 
  • States must implement regulations by May 1, 2024. 

Move to approve Addendum II to Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Striped Bass FMP, as amended today. 

Contact   for Striped Bass Emergency Action Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Last updated: May 9, 2023

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