A 4-fish-per-day creel limit will remain the same.
Biologists estimate that the new length limit, which will be effective each year from Oct. 1 through May 31, will increase the number of fish harvested by an average of 15 percent annually compared to the current 20-inch minimum size limit. However, the average size of harvested fish should decrease only about three-fourths to 1 pound.
"Our initial research indicates that anglers will observe minimal change in the average fish size," said Brian McRae, Piedmont research coordinator for the Commission's Division of Inland Fisheries. "For example, when fishing under a 16-inch minimum size limit, anglers can expect harvested striped bass to average around 3 pounds, but fish harvested under a 20-inch minimum size limit would average approximately 3.8 pounds."
The Commission is implementing the new length limit because striped bass growth in Lake Norman is considered poor compared to striped bass in other North Carolina reservoirs.
"We want to give anglers the opportunity to harvest more striped bass in a reservoir where growth is below average," McRae said.
Increasing the harvest of younger, smaller fish will reduce competition among the remaining striped bass, which is expected to improve their growth and condition.
Lake Norman striped bass typically reach 20 inches, the current minimum size limit, by age 3; however, few grow larger than 25 inches in length. While anglers occasionally catch striped bass larger than 25 inches, biologists have determined that most of those fish are at least 10 years old.
"Given the slow growth, it is unrealistic for the Commission to manage for striped bass in Lake Norman using a 20-inch minimum size limit," McRae said. "We believe managing for smaller fish with higher catch rates would be more appropriate."
From June 1 through Sept. 30, there is no minimum size limit on striped bass but the 4-per-day creel limit remains the same. The no-length-limit season was implemented in 2005 to help reduce summer catch mortality. During the summer, anglers are urged to keep the first four striped bass they catch and then fish for different species.
The new 16-inch minimum size limit was presented at the nine public hearings in January, approved by Commissioners in March and went into effect in July.
For information on fishing in North Carolina's public, inland waters, visit the Commission's Web site, www.ncwildlife.org or call the Division of Inland Fisheries, (919) 707-0220.