New York fishing regulators in a surprise move have reduced the number of striped bass that anglers can take from waters around Long Island from two fish a day to one.
The decision, announced at an advisory council meeting of the state Department of Environmental Conservation on Tuesday, retains the previous minimum size of 28 inches.
The season still will run from April 15 through Dec. 15.
Jim Gilmore, chief of the marine resources bureau of the DEC, said the move will go a long way toward rebuilding the stock of vital striped-bass breeders.
Gilmore noted that public comments were "overwhelmingly" in favor of reducing the bag limit to one fish per day from the prior two. "That was up and down the coast, not just in New York," he said.
A Marine Resources Advisory Council, citing concerns that anglers would travel to other states with fewer restrictions, earlier this year voted to recommend a two-fish limit -- one at between 28 and 34 inches and a second "trophy" fish above at least 36 inches.
"We really need to do something to restore the stock," Gilmore said, explaining why the DEC decided not to take the council's advice. "One at 28 inches gives us a meaningful reduction to help get the stock rebuilding."
Gilmore said the one, 28-inch-fish limit will continue until fisheries managers see measurable signs of rebuilding, at least until 2017.
"This will stay in place until we see some improvement," Gilmore said.
Commercial fishing boats will have a 25 percent reduction in their catch through an increase in the minimum size fish to 28 inches from a prior 24 inches, Gilmore said. The maximum commercial size is 38 inches.
In addition, the commercial season has been extended, opening on June 1 compared with July 1 last year, Gilmore said.
Gilmore noted that most other eastern states including Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut also have opted for the one fish at 28-inch limit.
Rhode Island hasn't yet made a decision, but Gilmore said he has strongly urged the state to follow New York's lead.
New Jersey, which has no commercial striped bass fishery, is allowing recreational anglers to keep one fish at 28-43 inches and a second at more than 44 inches, Gilmore said.