Commercial striped bass fishing closed for the season on Aug. 3 and will not reopen until next June. The 735,240-pound quota was filled, and that’s all she wrote.
It was a short season, lasting less than two months, but the battle between recreational bass fishermen and commercial ones will probably continue on into the winter, with each group accusing the other of being wasteful with their catches and contributing to high mortality of released shorts — that’s undersized fish, for those of you who only like to read about fishing.
We haven’t had a lot of commercial-size fish in our local waters for a few years now, so I am not as on top of that scene as I used to be when we had the commercial fleet here. But I have heard of days in other areas with massive numbers of shorts floating dead on the water on commercial days, and I’ve seen plenty of recreational shorts floating about around here when there are a lot of boats fishing. For commercial fishermen, a short is a fish under 34 inches; for recreational folks, it’s a fish under 28 inches.
The number of private boats fishing recreationally around our waters is way down from what we typically see. Whether it’s the high price of marine gasoline contributing to this or something else is a question to be asked, but whatever the reason may be, most days are relatively light with fewer recreational fishermen out there this season.
I have no dog in the recreational versus commercial bass fishing fight, as I do both. But from where I sit, the current regulations are counterproductive for both groups. A better limit for recreational bass fishing, in my view, would be one fish of any size — you get one, and you are done for the day. For commercial fishermen, I’d like to see a lower minimum size to stop the high number of shorts that are thrown back, because their mortality is high.
The real head-scratcher for me is the National Marine Fisheries Service making treble hooks illegal for bait fishing recreationally, while three treble hooks are OK when casting a swimming plug. I need the logic of that explained to me. I have caught many shorts this year with a swimming plug, and these fish had zero chance of survival after being released.
The large numbers of 24-to-27-inch fish we had last year came back this year as 28-to-32-inch keeper-size fish, which made for a highly successful striped bass season that continues for recreational fishermen as I write this.
Bass have been around and biting, albeit in fewer areas. There are fewer fish, but it’s still pretty good for August. I believe the status of the stock is very healthy right now. All the New England states have been reporting robust catches all summer long. It’s time to look at the regulations and clean up the rules that mean too many shorts being thrown back — and, I would add, increase the commercial quota back to 800,000 pounds per season.
A terrific show of both humpback and finback whales from Race Point to Peaked Hill remains on offer for both whale watch boats and people on the beach. All you need is a good pair of binoculars. The whales are here feeding on the enormous numbers of sand eels we currently have in our local waters.