Net restriction effective beginning March 18
During a special meeting held this past Wednesday, March 13, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted to prohibit the use of gill nets upstream of the ferry lines in the Pamlico River system and in the Neuse River system.
The vote overrules an earlier decision by the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries, in which he opted to continue allowing gill nets in those areas. The Commission called this special meeting to address that earlier decision. The director now must comply with the Commission’s vote.
The gill net restriction will go into effect on Monday, March 18. The closure is expected to remain in place for around two years, which is when Amendment 2 of the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan will be adopted. That amendment might continue the ban, or it may put other management practices in place.
The Division of Marine Fisheries is also seeking to close the same areas to recreational harvest. During the meeting, they asked the NCWRC to adopt this closure. The area is what is known as “joint fishing waters,” because it is managed by both the NCWRC and the NC Marine Fisheries Commission. Both agencies must agree on the recreational closure before it is implemented.
The closures should protect recently discovered naturally-spawned stripers and the larger hatchery-released females. Fisheries biologists believe this could lead to an increase in wild-born stripers in the area. Historically, the striped bass population in these waters have all been hatchery-raised fish. But the new discovery of locally spawned stripers offers hope for wild stripers in the future.