by Frank Ruczynski
New Jersey's Striped Bass Bonus Program (SBBP) was reinstated on Tuesday, September 1, 2015. According to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, "Permits have been issued to replace permits purchased prior to May 1, 2015. Anyone who purchased a permit prior to May 1, 2015 and has not received a replacement permit by September 14, 2015 should call (609) 748-2020 and leave a message with their name and a phone number where you can be reached during business hours."
I purchased my SBBP permit this spring and have not received my new tag. Some other anglers have received their tags and forwarded me information they received from the Division of Fish and Wildlife that is not currently included on the Division's website. I'll list some of the important changes below, but new permits will be limited so if you'd like to participate in the program, please visit www.njfishandwildlife.com to print and complete a 2015 SBBP Individual Participant Application and Child Support Application. The program appears to be free for the remainder of the 2015 season, but the Division requires applicants enclose a self-addressed, stamped, #10 business envelope per application. SBBP Individual Application Form
The revamped SBBP has changed in quite a few ways, some of which will come as a surprise to many anglers. The new regulations are as follows: one striped bass from 24 inches to less than 28 inches – if you remember back a few years, we called this size range our "slot fish." The old SBBP paper permit has been replaced by a red plastic tie that must be securely attached to the fish through the mouth and gill immediately upon capture and prior to transportation. Harvest reporting is mandatory and must be reported online or by leaving a voice message at (609) 748-2074. Only one bonus permit will be issued per person in 2015 – you read that right, you may only take one bonus striped bass for the remainder of the 2015 season. Anyone failing to submit logs to the Division will not be considered for the 2016 Striped Bass Bonus Program. Logs must be submitted by mail or online by January 15, 2016 – the Division's website has a link to complete logs online by using participants' nine-digit conservation identification numbers as their user names and participants' date of birth as their passwords.
I'm not certain how I feel about the changes yet, but I believe the old SBBP needed some improvement. I can't figure out how adding a red plastic tag will result in any advancements to the program, but I do like that submitting log information is now a necessity to be considered for continued participation in the program. I look at the SBBP as a privilege and believe the information gathered is extremely beneficial. However, when it comes down to regulations, I think the State has it backwards - I'd much rather see our general, state-wide regulations include some type of slot fish and our SBBP turn into a trophy tag of say one fish over 40 inches. An average South Jersey backwater striped bass.
The party/charter boat facet of the SBBP allows customers to use a permit each day. Party and charter boats captains are required to submit daily logbooks and weekly reports of striped bass harvest to ensure the quota is not exceeded. I feel for the party and charter boat captains, but I dislike the fact that if I fish on a "for hire" boat, I can take a bonus fish every single day, yet as an individual recreation angler, I am only allowed to use one permit for the remainder of the 2015 season. I never liked the fact that as an individual recreational angler I have to follow strict bag and size limits, but if I want to buy commercially harvested fish, I can buy as much as I want - I can't count the days I had to let go big, beautiful summer flounder while the commercial guys fished right next to me and could kept every fish they caught. I understand that hook and line commercial fishermen provide a much less harmful way of harvesting fish, but at the end of the day it just rubs me the wrong way. The state claims the allocation of commercial harvest has been transferred to the recreational sector, but with the current SBBP regulations I think it's fair to consider party/charter boats as commercial vessels. We have one set of regulations for average anglers and another set for those willing to pay a price.
I'll keep up-to-date with the SBBP and continue to update the blog accordingly. I hope everyone enjoys what's left of the summer season and the holiday weekend. Stay safe and good luck out on the water!
The Division released another statement regarding the delivery date of our SBBP tags. 2015 SBBP permit holders should receive their SBBP tag no later than October 1, 2015. According to sources, some post offices claimed the Division did not include enough postage for the tag envelopes to be delivered. The tags were returned to the Division and the proper adjustments were made. I received my tag on Wednesday, September 23. New Striped Bass Bonus Program Tag