The word is migratory bass have begun to show up in the Canal and in estuary mouths along the Cape’s south shore. Some fish as large as 30 inches have been caught by fishermen casting Al Gag Whip-Its and SP swimmers.
We need a stretch of warmer weather to get things moving faster, which unfortunately is not in the forecast for this week. So, in the meantime, let’s do some homework: a lot of recreational rules are under review right now.
Black sea bass now have a four-fish limit and a 16.5-inch minimum size. The season opens May 20 and closes Sept. 7. The current limits are designed to reduce the recreational harvest by 10 percent to comply with federal regulations. The state’s Div. of Marine Fisheries has incorporated them under its emergency regulatory authority to ensure they are in effect for May.
Emergency regulations are effective as soon as they are filed and remain in effect for 90 days. During the 90-day period, the DMF intends to renew the rules for the rest of the season, but first they are holding a written public comment period through June 7. Written comments can be submitted by e-mail to [email protected]. There will also be a virtual public hearing on June 5 at 6 p.m., with registration through the DMF website.
Haddock and cod regulations are also under review. For regulatory purposes, Provincetown and the Outer Cape sit right on the border between the Gulf of Maine and Southern New England. This can make things confusing, especially since the regulations for the two areas are quite different. The Gulf of Maine refers to all waters north of Cape Cod, including Cape Cod Bay, and those waters east of Cape Cod that are north of 42° 00’ N latitude. Southern New England encompasses all waters south and west of Cape Cod, including Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound, Buzzards Bay, and Mount Hope Bay, and all waters east of Cape Cod south of 42° 00’ N latitude, including Nauset Harbor and Pleasant Bay.
A proposed decrease in the bag limit of haddock from the current 20 fish to 15 fish and an increase in the minimum size for Gulf of Maine haddock from 17 to 18 inches were proposed and approved by the New England Fishery Management Council recently.
For cod, the Gulf of Maine fishery has a 22-inch minimum size and a one-fish-per-day bag limit; the gulf is currently closed to cod fishing. Even though May is upon us, regulations for May 1 and onward had not been determined by this edition’s deadline. For those fishing in Southern New England waters, cod also has a 22-inch minimum but a higher bag limit of five fish. That rule is also currently under review, and changes could be imminent.
Striped bass and bluefish regulations have not changed. Striped bass can be kept only if they are between 28 and 35 inches; a one-fish-per-day bag limit is in force. Gaffs may not be used to land the fish, and only circle hooks are permitted for baiting. Bluefish will again have a three-fish bag limit for those fishing from shore or on a private boat and a five-fish limit per person on a boat for hire.
There you have it. Be aware of the rules and on the lookout for changes, which may be coming soon — ignorance of them is not going to get you off the hook.
For updates, you can find the state’s recreational saltwater fishing regulations on the Mass.gov website.