Last week the state Division of Marine Fisheries announced it would be expanding the commercial striped bass season for the remainder of the fishing year. It's a decision that's provoked a lot of conversation within the recreational and commercial fishing communities.
Commercial striped bass fishing isn't a net-hauling business. It's a hook-and-line fishery, and commercial fisherman have been allowed to fish only on Mondays and Thursdays, only keeping fish over 34 inches.. They're fishing against an annual quota, which this year is 847,585 pounds. Kevin Blinkoff, of On The Water magazine, points out that typically this quota is filled by end of summer. But this year something different happened. This year, approximately 30% of the quota remained as of mid-September
As a result, the state decided to open Tuesdays to commercial fishing, to increase the chance of the commercial quota being caught.
For many, the big question is, why were commercial fishermen unable to catch their quota?
It's a point of contention among fishermen.
Some say that it was bad weather and natural conditions, as warming waters pushed fish further north or offshore.
Many recreational fishermen are worried that the catch downturn points to a lack of fish in the overall population – specifically the 34-inch-and-larger fish that commercial fishermen target.
Overall, Blinkoff says, fishermen have been reporting fewer concentrations of big stripers in Massachusetts waters. The commercial fleet used to focus on certain areas, including Devils Bridge off Martha's Vineyard, the rips off Chatham, and the Cape Cod Bay beaches. This year, other than the Cape Cod Canal (where boats can't fish), these regular spots have not supplied many consistent big bass bites.
One bright side for recreational fishermen? We've seen good numbers of smaller stripers, and some areas to the north, like southern Maine, have had excellent seasons.
We've got more details, and a round-up of the week's fishing action, including the strong false albacore bite, in this week's Fishing News. Give it a listen.