NJ’s 2022 Black Sea Bass Regs

NJ Black Sea Bass Regulations

  • May 17 – June 19: 10 Fish At 13″
  • July 1 – August 31: 2 Fish At 13″
  • October 7 – Oct 26: 10 Fish At 13″
  • November 1 – Dec 31: 15 Fish at 13″

2022 Black Sea Bass Recreational Fishing Regulations Explained

Even though the coast wide black sea bass stock is strong and abundant (2021 stock assessment states the Mid-Atlantic Black Sea Bass stock is NOT overfished and is NOT subject to overfishing) New Jersey was forced to take a hit. Why? Well that is a much bigger issue.

Our Dealt Hand

Like with all fishing regulations it boils down to the cards we are dealt. This year NJ was required to reduce harvest by 20.7%. Why?…

Recreational anglers (as per MRIP data) have exceeded the black sea bass harvest allocation three out of the last 4 years. Also the spawning stock biomass (SSB) is and has been in decline. Also a good recruitment (R) year has not stepped up to offer support.

This chart below details some key data on black sea bass, recruitment (R) and spawning stock biomass (SSB). It shows a phenomenal 2012 recruitment, then a SSB peak in 2012/2015, followed by a progressive decline. The SSB is closing in on the horizontal dotted line is the biomass target.

The Process

The NJ Black Sea Bass Advisors met on March 29th to discuss, debate and hash out the options to best work around the 20% reduction. It started off with 7 options and at one point was more than double that. Most advisors wanted the two fish summer time option. Also the late fall season is important to keep boats fishing and pressure off of just tautog. Anything less than 8 fish bag was not supported. Concern about raising the minimum size up a 1/2″ to 13″ was discuss.

Some advisors requested consideration of splitting management options between sectors where private anglers and vessels would have different measures than for-hire vessels, just like bluefish right now. The for-hire sector is responsible for only a small portion of the seasonal harvest and they provide very detailed data through eVTR (electronic vessel trip reporting).

After several hours of deliberation the committee moved forward with four options and their preferred, Option One.

The Meeting & Public Comment

At the April 7, 2022 NJ Marine Fisheries Council meeting the same topics were mentioned that the advisors debated. Many wanted the most days possible because many days aren’t fishable due to weather.

Option One was not popular because it had an 8 fish bag limits in Wave 3 & 5 and also didn’t offer days in the first half of July.

Public comment for the most part was themed around preference for Option Three because it offered the most days, included Memorial Day, Father’s Day, 10 Fish Bag in Wave 3 & 5, 15 Fish Bag in Wave 6, 2 Fish Bag all Summer (July and August) and that 13″ fish were very common and obtainable.

One comment was, “Most sea bass anglers are already self regulating and only keeping 13″ fish.” But another comment warned, “Going up in size can be dangerous. We don’t want to make the mistake NY did. They went up and paid for it. It was a four year period of pain due to high dead discards.”

Some stated the late season fishing must remain open since November and December offer good bottom fishing when historically sea bass fishing has been good. By closing this time, bottom fishing would switch over to tautog and that additional target would be a lot of pressure on this species which will soon be in the management spotlight (it’s coming).

A great public comment came in from Captain Eddy Yates from the Susan Hudson (formerly owner/operator of the Hunter), a proactive best in class saltwater captain. He respectfully supported Option Three and asked for the dates within Wave 5 to be altered in order to capitalize on the Columbus Day weekend. They accommodated the request and shifted the 20 days of WAVE 5 a handful of days earlier, 10/7 – 10/26.

The Decision

Shortly there after a motion was made to vote to replace option three as the preferred passed unanimously. And then another unanimous vote to finalize it as the 2022 regulation.

Once again (just like the summer flounder slot limit, but much faster) the NJMF Council listened and gave the public what they asked for. As anglers it doesn’t get any better than that! What we all must focus on now is the part of management that is broken… Support For Recreational Reform Today! For more information on Recreational Reform Please Read This!

The Biology & Other Info On Black Sea Bass

Black sea bass are slow growers and reach maturity in 1-3 years of age. Females can live up to 8 years while males live up to 12. Did you know? Black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites? They start life as a female and when they reach 9-13″ (2-5 years old) they change sex and become males.

This chart shows the change over.

Females can live up to 8 years and depending on their size can produce 30,000-500,000 eggs in a spawning season. Males live up to 12 years old and during spawning, the dominant males turn bright blue and have a hump on their heads.

The fishery is predominantly recreational harvest. Another factor that is coming into play with sea bass and many other species is the distribution shift north. We don’t have the fall sea bass fishing we once had due to environmental factors (climate change) the sea bass biomass shift northward. This trend is happening with summer flounder, winter flounder and many other species.

Author: FishHead.Greg

A Long Beach Island native with life long experience fishing and navigating the local waters, Greg is a distinguished Master Captain (the highest qualified operator license), holding a US Coast Guard Masters 50T Near Coastal License with Towing Endorsement. Raised in and now managing his family's bait and tackle business, Fishermans Headquarters (Since 1962, The Saltwater Fishing Bait & Tackle Experts) Greg is daily immersed in fishing. He is the Chief Contributor of FishingLBI.com (Long Beach Island's best fishing report blog) as well as the Admin for the shop's social media pages (on Instagram and Facebook). Be sure to follow!

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