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Striped Bass Circle Hook Requirement
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 
Updated April 15, 2021

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)'s fishery management plan for striped bass require anglers to use non-offset (inline) circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with bait in all waters (see the April 15, 2021 Update). Using non-offset (inline) circle hooks significantly increases the survival of released striped bass.

Since announcing the circle hook requirement, ASMFC and states up and down the coast have received questions and concerns about the new requirement. On February 3, 2021, the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board (Board) met and approved by consensus the creation of an ad hoc committee to address the public's concerns by developing a standard definition of bait and methods of fishing that would require the use of circle hooks as well as how to handle incidental catch. On March 16, 2021, the Board approved the following clarification of the Addendum VI section 3.2 Circle Hook Provision:

Definition of Bait and Methods of Fishing that Require Circle Hooks: Circle hooks are required when fishing for striped bass with bait, which is defined as any marine or aquatic organism live or dead, whole or parts thereof. This shall not apply to any artificial lure with bait attached.

Incidental Catch: Striped bass caught on any unapproved method of take must be returned to the water immediately without unnecessary injury.

Please continue to check back as additional information is added.

Q. Are anglers required to use circle hooks when fishing with bait for all species or just specifically when fishing for striped bass?
A. This specific requirement only applies to anglers fishing for striped bass with bait.

Q. Are land-animal products (e.g. pork rinds) included as natural bait?
A. No, land-animal products are not included as bait for this provision, only marine or aquatic organisms.

Q. Do artificial baits such as Gulp require the use of circle hooks?
A. No. For this provision, bait is defined as any marine or aquatic organism live or dead, whole or parts thereof.

Q. If I attach bait to a lure, am I required to use a circle hook?
A. No, the circle hook requirement does not apply to artificial lures with bait attached.

Q. What if my lure has multiple hooks and I only attach bait to one hook?
A. The circle hook requirement does not apply to artificial lures, regardless if bait is attached.

Q. What about using bucktails with real deer hair? Is that considered bait, and will it require a circle hook?
A. No, land-animal products are not included as bait for this provision, only marine or aquatic organisms.

Q. Can I still snag menhaden (bunker) for bait?
A. Yes, you can use another hook type (e.g. treble hook) to snag menhaden. Once you've snagged a bunker, you'll need to transfer it to a circle hook to target striped bass. You can fish live menhaden or as chunk bait once on a circle hook. "Snag and drop" fishing for striped bass (when you snag a menhaden with a treble hook and immediately live line it) is now prohibited.

Q. What if I snag a bunker and as I am reeling in the bunker to transfer it to a circle hook, I catch and land a striped bass? A. The striped bass incidentally caught on the treble hook must be returned to the water immediately without unnecessary injury.

Q. What if I am fishing for another species using a marine or aquatic organism for bait (i.e. clam, squid, mullet, eel, etc.) on a hook that is not a circle hook (i.e. a j-hook or treble hook) but I catch a striped bass? A. The striped bass must be released. Striped bass caught on any unapproved method of take must be returned to the water immediately without unnecessary injury.

Q. What if I am fishing for another species using a land-based organism for bait (i.e. pork rinds, chicken, land-based worms, etc.) on a hook that is not a circle hook (i.e. a j-hook or treble hook) but I catch a striped bass? A. If the striped bass is of legal size, within your daily bag limit, and caught during open season, the striped bass can be harvested.

Q. How does the Division determine how many striped bass were caught by recreational anglers?
A. The Division works with other state, regional, and federal partners to implement the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) to estimate the number of trips anglers take and the number of fish caught and harvested, including striped bass. There are three separate surveys that make up MRIP which include in-person, telephone, and mail fishing surveys:

Division staff help administer these surveys in NJ. Also, the Division uses data collected from the Striped Bass Bonus Program (SBBP) to supplement the data collected from MRIP.

For more information about the MRIP, please visit NOAA Fisheries site.

Q. How are the estimates of release mortality determined for striped bass?
A. The MRIP provides an estimate of the number of striped bass that have been caught and released alive. There have been numerous studies on striped bass hook and release mortality. Those studies show a range of mortality estimates depending on factors like hook type, hooking location, and temperature. An analysis done on these wide-ranging studies put the average release mortality at 9%, and that is what is used in the assessment and for management.

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Last Updated: April 15, 2021