Saco - In response to numerous reports of striped bass that died after being caught and released on the Saco River, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) will close a section of the river between Route 9 and the head of tide, commonly known as the Cataract Dam, to fishing.
The closure, done through emergency rulemaking, will take effect Saturday, June 10th.
The closed area is popular for recreational striper fishermen however that stretch of river is bordered by a cement wall that makes it difficult for harvesters to land and release stripers without injury or death to the fish.
“Recreational anglers have reported to Marine Patrol seeing large numbers of dead striped bass in this area,” said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “It’s clear that this is directly linked to some anglers who land stripers in this area with no way to properly release fish without causing a high discard mortality.”
“This closure is consistent with a recently enacted regulation to protect the striped bass population,” said Commissioner Keliher. “We recently implemented a change to the slot limit for striped bass based on an emergency action by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that is intended to protect the stock.”
That action was in response to an unprecedented increase in the recreational harvest of striped bass in 2022 which nearly doubled that of 2021. “The recent action by ASMFC and DMR to reduce the slot limit, which defines the legally harvestable size, is an important step in supporting rebuilding efforts for this vital fishery,” said Commissioner Keliher. “We don’t want to undermine that by turning our back on fishing mortality in an area that sees a lot of striped bass and fishing action.”
“As part of our overall approach, we are also investing in angler education by partnering with the non-profit organization “Keep Fish Wet” to develop and distribute educational programming on best practices for safe handling of striped bass,” said Commissioner Keliher. “We also strongly encourage striped bass fishermen to view information we have posted on the DMR website that highlights catch and release tips and current regulations.”
A copy of the emergency regulation can be found on the DMR website.