The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Department of the Environment have linked the majority of floating, dead striped bass recently sighted to fishing mortality and are urging anglers to be more careful.

Surveys conducted by the DNR and MDE found that the majority of fish recovered had hook marks or hooks still embedded. Anglers can help reduce the mortality of striped bass by carefully practicing catch and release, particularly with the methods requiring the use of bait. Chumming and bait fishing sometimes result in fish being deep hooked.

Studied conducted by the DNR Fisheries Service have concluded that some striped bass caught and released by recreational fishermen do no survive when water temperatures reach 70 degrees or higher, which is typical from mid-June through mid-September in the Chesapeake Bay. Lower salinities, north of the Choptank River, combined with warm waters, increases the vulnerability of striped bass to fishing mortality.

To strive for 100 percent survival for all released fish, anglers should follow these recommendations:

  • Use 20 pound test line or higher when fishing for striped bass you plan to release.
  • Do not overplay the fish - exhausted fish have a poor chance of survival.
  • Use barbless hooks to ease removal.
  • Make sure dehooking devices are available and know how to use them.
  • Keep fish in the water when removing the hook, if possible.
  • If fish must be netted, use a net that is shallow and made of soft rubber or knotless nylon netting.
  • Handle fish gently and with wet hands - rough handling will remove the slime coating on the fish and cause them to be susceptible to waterborne infections, especially in warmer water temperatures.
  • Keep excess slack line in control when drifting back into the chum slick and set the hook quickly at the first indication of a strike.

The DNR and the MDE both investigate reports of fish deaths. Those observing concentrations of dead fish are asked to report the sighting to the MDE at (410) 974-3238 or the DNR at 1-800-688-FINS.