Bass fishing exploded in our area this week. And the big fish have arrived. Capt. Nico Pace of the Cape Tip’n, Capt. Russ Zawaduk of the Lisa Z, Capt. Rich Wood of the Beth Ann, and the Cee-Jay all reported having to throw back bass that were over 35 inches.
You might be asking yourself why in the world we are throwing 35-plus-inch bass back in the sea. It’s because we have a so-called slot limit, which dictates we can keep bass only if they are between 28 and 35 inches long.
Our bass keeper rules are not working. I get the intent, which is to save the most prolific breeders — those in the over-35-inch range — and to protect the soon-to-be breeders that are under 28 inches.
But here is why I know those rules are failing. On Saturday, the bass fishing was extremely good — everyone out there was catching fish. It was a weekend, so there were a lot of boats out, which meant a high number of throwbacks.
News flash: the throwbacks are not surviving. This was evidenced by the enormous number of dead shorts on the surface that day. If preventing mortality and achieving conservation are the objectives, we are not meeting them.
You want a rule that makes sense in terms of addressing both mortality and conservation? I’ll give you one: one fish per day of any size. After that, you simply have to stop targeting them.
That would mean, on a six-man charter boat, the first six fish end striped bass fishing for the day. After six fish are caught, you have to target another species. Or go in early. Same with party fishing boats — on mine, that would mean after the first 20 fish are caught, regardless of size, that’s it. After that, you have to bottom fish, or go after bluefish, or go in early.
I am convinced that is truly the only way to end this ridiculous killing of shorts. When you catch a short with a hook in its gut, or one that’s impaled by a plug with three treble hooks, there is no way it’s going to survive. The way things stand, we throw that fish back in the name of conservation and end up feeding the crabs. What we are being required to do is absolutely ludicrous.
Bluefish are making brief appearances at the cottages off Beach Point and off Herring Cove, but they don’t seem to be staying. Tuna fishing hasn’t really gotten going yet, although boats are out there looking and waiting for the bite to start.
Flounder fishing remains good in deeper waters off the Pamet, using sea worms or clams. We still aren’t seeing the fin whales we typically see around Race Point and Herring Cove, but we’re hopeful they will arrive soon. There is plenty of food for them there. Mackerel fishing in the Horseshoe Cove is very good right now. Squid are also in the harbor and under the lights at night.