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Commercial Striped Bass Fishing Opens July 12

Many recreational fishermen are quick to demonize commercial striped bass fishing without fully comprehending the impact that recreational fishing has on our local striped bass population.

For a period of about six weeks, beginning on July 12, a few thousand Massachusetts fishermen will head out on the water in pursuit of striped bass. 

However the commercial striped bass season has come under fire recently, largely due to concerns over the health of the overall striped bass stock.  The concern is understandable, as the economic value of the striped bass extends deep into various industries here on Cape Cod.

Tackle shops, charter businesses, restaurants, seafood wholesalers as well as commercial fishermen all benefit from the striped bass' seasonal presence in the waters surrounding the Cape.  Yet recently there has been growing concern over the number of juvenile stripers, which has dwindled according to observations made by many fishermen.

The reasons behind the supposed decline in numbers of the smaller, younger members of the striped bass population are not clear.  Even so many peole are quick to blame the commercial striped bass fishery. 

However, the recreational fishery is not getting off the hook either.

According to a recent ASMFC striped bass stock assessment (2007), recreational fishermen harvested approximately 2,774,542 bass.  Estimated dead recreational discards (fish released that end up dying) were 2,072,334.  4.8 million striped bass were killed by the recreational sector, stated the report.

The commercial harvest was 1,049,587 fish.  Estimated commercial discards were 216,753 striped bass.

So in conclusion, according to the ASMFC, recreational fishermen killed over 4 million more fish that year than commercial fishermen.

The impact that both groups have on our striped bass population is undeniable.

Commercial fishermen, some of which rely heavily upong striped bass as a form of income, and some who do not, should be held accountable.

Recreational fishermen, some of which keep bass for tablefare, and even those who release bass to fight another day, should be held accountable.

If any changes are to be made over the upcoming years to how we mange striped bass, it only makes sense that both groups should be willing to make a sacrafice.

 

Mark Pirani July 11, 2011 at 02:40 AM
Just a question For you Ryan of the over 1000 commercial endorsement holders how many will fill their tags and have their fish count towards the quota? Well under Half! Do the others purchase the permit just in case? Or are they selling fish that do not get counted against the quota. There is a reason the Management board have given themselves the ability to reduce harvest by over 40% for both sectors. The assessment scheduled to be released this year will show a picture none of us want to look at.
Mark Pirani July 11, 2011 at 02:41 AM
BTW I am in agreement both groups need to reduce their take.
Ryan Collins July 11, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Hey Mark, thanks for the questions and comments. I'm not quite sure what you mean by "fill their tags," but I'm assuming you are getting at catching the daily limit of striped bass allowed under the striped bass commercial endorsement. As I'm sure you know, on Tue., Wed., and Thur. commercial permit holders are allowed 30 fish, each over 34 inches in length. Even the best striped bass fishermen in our area often do not come close to catching 30 fish during these days. It's certainly not easy to do! On Sunday the limit is 5 fish over 34 inches in length. The reason for this, I believe, is to preserve the quota for the fishermen who depend upon bass as an income-compared to the weekend warriors. I'm going to go out on a limb by saying that many people purchase their striped bass commercial endorsement because they enjoy striped bass fishing, and would like to make a little money on the side. Whether it be to cover gas, bait, tackle or just to make a little extra $. Fish that are sold to a buyer are most certainly counted towards the quota. The fish is immediately weighed, and indvidually tagged. There are no "individual quotas" and I can't imagine a situation where someone could sell a fish that does not get recorded. In all my years of fishing I've never come upon anyone who sells bass illegitimately, although I'm sure it happens. Poor practices, are unfortunately a piece of any industry.
brad burns July 11, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Ryan - if you consider that the recreational fishermen fishing for their own personal consumption number around 125 for every 1 commercial permit holder the entire fishing public collectively catching four or five times as many fish as this small group of profiteers is a very inequitable distribution. That doesn't take into account the well known - even if you have not personally seen it - illegal catch of striped bass by permit holders. Do you want to mislead your audience into believing the ridiculous contention that 3/4 of all permit holders actually catch no striped bass for the season? All that aside, though, why, if your article is meant to in any way be a representation of the truth, do you use 2007 statistics when the 2010 numbers are available from NMFS. Because of the alarming decline of striped bass along our coast the recreational catch since 2006 has dropped by more than 70% while the commercial catch is unchanged. So, the recreational community has already taken an enormous reduction. The MA striped bass commercial fishery is killing a very large amount of desperately needed, big, breeding-age striped bass to benefit a very few people. Commercial fishing for striped bass needs to stop as it already has in ME, NH, and CT.
Ryan Collins July 12, 2011 at 11:10 AM
Hi Brad, Thanks for your comment. You most certainly have an extensive knowledge on the subject. You make some interesting and important points to say the least. The recreational catch exceeding the commercial catch by a factor of 4 or 5 makes perfect sense based on the larger number of recreational fishermen vs commercial fishermen. Regardless, the recreational sector still did harvest 4 to 5 times more bass, according to that specific study. According to the statistics, the recreational sector had a greater impact on our fishery than the commercial sector. I'm not pointing fingers, or placing blame, just stating a statistic that is often overlooked, that's all. Of course I am not trying to mislead my readers. All the numbers in the above article were taken from a published study conducted by a credible organization. However in a recent article that I believe you wrote for the Cape Cod Times, you stated that spearfishing is an additional source of mortality for striped bass along with commercial fishing. Spearfishing? Have you ever shot a fish with a spear before? It is extremely difficult, and certainly has a next to zero impact on the bass population. Oddly enough, in that article you mention nothing of the impact recreational fishing has on the species. If that is not misleading to your audience, then I do not know what is. Here's a link to the article: http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110613/OPINION/106130328
brad burns July 12, 2011 at 11:27 AM
Ray - there is no question that the recreational catch of striped bass needs to be reduced. In fact at this point, with essentially spawning failure in Chesapeake Bay beginning in 2004, we probably shouldn't be killing any female striped bass larger than 25 or 26 inches, and making the entire fishery catch and release for a few years would be fine with me personally. Certainly the recreational fishery has a great effect on the fish population, I very much agree with you on that. I'm just saying that on the basis of social fairness the very modest per person catch of striped bass is a far more sensible way to harvest these fish than letting a handful of people kill a pile of fish each to sell. In jobs and economic terms the recreational fishery provides far more benefits to society on a per pound basis also, but that is another story. You are correct that I am not a spear fisherman, but I have some friends who have done a lot of it. Some days it is tough, some it is very easy. The points to consider are that stripers don't need any new sources of mortality, so why introduce them, and you can't measure a fish before shooting it with a spear. It makes it almost impossible to comply with any size based regulations.
Ryan Collins July 12, 2011 at 08:48 PM
If there is no question that the recreational catch needs to be reduced, because it is the largest influence on striped bass mortality, then why didn't you mention anything about it in your recent CCT article? Instead you focuses solely on commercial fishermen, the very people who are responsible for making Cape Cod what it is today. Based on the statistics you choose to use, and the perspective you take on things, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you are a member of Stripers Forever. The group is notorious for making above and beyond exaggerations, and taking a doomsday approach to anything striped bass. How did you gather the stat that the recreational catch has been reduced by 70%? That means that your average Joe and charter captain is catching 70% less fish today than 5 years ago. Most guys "in the know" that I've spoken with this year alone are topping their all time catch records. One well known charter captain caught over 1,000 fish in one week this past spring. Oh, and out of those 1,000 bass, I'd imagine a good 100 of them ended up dying due to wounds received from catch and release. Anyways Brad we are never going to agree 100% on these issues, which is fine. I respect your stand. The last thing I want to do is start an argument. But please be aware that articles like the one you've written, have the power to destroy the livelihoods, and fishing communities that Cape Cod and New England are so well known for.
brad burns July 19, 2011 at 01:06 AM
Ray - I am the president of Stripers Forever. Here is the NOAA website that shows the specific recreational catch data about http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/recreational/queries/catch/snapshot.html. My comments about the declining catch are accurate. Check with Paul Diodati, the MA fishery director. Striped bass spawning success has declined dramatically since 2003. Fishery managers are alarmed. Stripers Forever's policies are decided upon by a diverse board representing all branches of the fishing community. We have guides, scientists, conservationists, fishing writers, and many hard core fishermen. Commercial fishing for striped bass has already been ended in most coastal states. In New England ME, NH, and CT have banned the commercial taking of striped bass. Our views are rational, thought out, and not at all exaggerated or extreme. I also am far more qualified than most to comment on the fabric of commercial fishing. I come from just such a family in Friendship, ME. My family has fished there as far back as there are records, and many of my relatives still fish commercially. Your contention that ending commercial striped bass fishing would hurt the fabric of life on Cape Cod is simply wrong. All but a tiny handful of striped bass commercial fishermen are just recreational fishermen selling their catch to pay for their fun. The current path is going to ruin the far more socio-economically valuable guiding, tackle, and fishing tourism businesses.
Nick July 19, 2011 at 11:36 PM
I'm curious why there is no mention of charter boats in the article. Do the fisherman that charter boats count as rec fisherman? A charter that goes out in the morning and again for an afternoon charter could potentially keep 24 fish a day, 7 days a week. That's more than the amount alloted to the com guys, and the com season is only 5ish weeks long. Also, as of this morning, the quota is only at 2.2% according to the mass fisheries site, which breaks down (roughly) to 400 fish/day thus far.
brad burns July 20, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Nick - I didn't write the article, but comparing the collective catch of the recreational fishing public to the catch of a comparative handful of pseudo commercial anglers is not right. Anyone who buys a commercial permit can keep 30 fish a day - whether they sell them or not. 24 striped bass for a charter boat fishing two tides a day would be the collective efforts of 12 individual anglers keeping only two each for their personal use - 2 each not 30 each. I forget the exact figures, but on average recreational fishermen harvest less than 1 fish per year per angler. Those anglers on the charter boat may be taking their only trip of a season or maybe even a lifetime. Recreational angling, on top of providing more jobs and economic benefits to the Commonwealth is a far more democratic way to allocate the resource than giving a very large part of the harvest to a few people to sell for their personal financial benefit.
Ryan Collins July 20, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Hi Brad and Nick, Thanks for the insightful comments. The comment section is an awesome feature of patch! Like all statistics, there are reasons behind the numbers that can be easily overlooked by the untrained eye. For example, a decline in recreational catch numbers does not mean that striped bass are in trouble. There are a lot of other factors influencing the estimated recreational catch. Near $4 a gallon gasoline for starters makes me think twice about filling up the boat's gas tank. Plus the boat market is absolutely flooded with boats right now. A lot of folks up and down the striper coast are struggling in this economy-the last thing on their minds is learning and investing in new ways to catch stripers. The declining economy is just one of many reasons why there is a declining recreational catch. The entire commercial quota last year was caught in under 6 weeks-fast than usual, indicating that there were far more fish in MA than years past. Other states banning a certain practice does not mean in any way that it is the right thing for Massachusetts to do. Just ask anybody petitioning for gay marriage rights. Implying that Massachusetts should ban a practice because a few other states have banned it is unfair. Lets remember that commercial striped bass fishing is allowed in 8 of the 14 "striper states" along the East coast.
Ryan Collins July 20, 2011 at 05:03 PM
I appreciate how qualified you are to comment on the fabric of commercial fishing. Then you would certainly understand that commercial striped bass fishing has been in practice hundreds of years before anyone recreational fished. Ending commercial striped bass fishing would hurt the fabric of life on Cape Cod. It is one of the 3 oldest forms of commercial fishing we have. Saying that commercial fishermen are just "recreational fishermen paying for their fun" shows just how far removed your are from our fishery. Over 1/3 of my yearly income comes from commercial striped bass fishing. I used the money to buy my car, pay my rent, my boat, groceries, and everything else we all need to survive. Sure there are guys who sell a few fish to pay for their fun, but then there are people like myself who rely on the fishery to get them through the year. You are right, all but a tiny handful of fishermen can profit from commercial striped bass fishing. How many fishermen have the ability to catch 700 pounds of striped bass in one trip? These talented, and hardworking fishermen are few and far between, and should not be penalized for being able to turn a profit in an inherently difficult industry. By the way Brad, it's not a big deal at all, but my name is Ryan, not Ray. Tight lines!
brad burns July 20, 2011 at 09:55 PM
My apologies Ryan - in its earliest form people caught striped bass to feed themselves, and that is what recreational or personal use fishing accomplishes. It is truly the most basic harvest right. I can't blame you for wanting to continue to sell bass and make money, but I don't agree with it either. The striped bass fishery is going down hill fast, and it is both economically beneficial and socially fairer to share the harvest equally between all those who want to go fishing and a few guys who want to sell them. The history of commercial fishing for striped bass is really neither here nor there. Things change, there used to be market gunners too. At the bottom, just back in the 1980s, the quota in MA was 75,000 pounds per year, now it is 1,200,000. The entire fishery as it exists today was created just since the bass recovery that, very unfortunately for a great many people, is now severely threatened. Stripers Forever's annual survey sees guides losing their clients and therefore their jobs, jobs that in better times provided 6 months of employment. If we follow the current course we will soon have neither guides, recreational anglers, nor commercial striped bass fishing.
Ryan Collins October 26, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Great news for anyone who fishes for striped bass! Survey results in both Virginia and Maryland indicate near record highs for striped bass recruitment. This means more striped bass (about four times more than average) successfully hatched in 2011. http://www.vims.edu/newsandevents/topstories/striped_bass_survey_results.php http://www.onthewater.com/fishing/good-news-a-banner-spawn-for-stripers/
brad burns October 26, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Ryan - yes it is very good news, but it should be understood that these fish will not be legal sized for coastal anglers for another 8 years. Long before that time amost all of the currently living legal-sized stripers will be either dead of old age or have been harvested. There are going to be some very lean years ahead. We need to reduce the fishing mortality on striped bass right now to preserve the current brood stock. I believe that stripers should be made a game fish and all commercial fishing for them should be stopped, but that is a different debate. As an immediate course of action both commercial and recreational mortality should be curtailed by at least 50%. Brad Burns
MJO December 21, 2011 at 11:36 PM
MJO Once you put a price on a fish’s head, over exploitation will follow. Be it recreational or commercial. The fish’s interest should come first before human interests. “Management" only benefits human interests.
Jim February 29, 2012 at 09:57 AM
Other factors that affect the striped bass fishery (Nantucket area): In resent years an explosion in the seal population has made the shore fishing on some parts of the island almost impossible. The seals will take the fish right off the line, even chase the fish up the beach as you drag it in! This happens with with fish other than striped bass as well. Seals may not be able to catch a healthy striped bass but, I'm sure the bass don't want to be to close to the seals. Another issues is that the seals compete for the same food as the striped bass making their food source more scarce. In the last few years the water temperatures have been warmer than average which may contribute to fewer fish and bait in the area. During the historically good fall run season there has been no large bait to support the fish on their migration. I believe they have been migrating offshore where there bait is.
Ryan Scudder February 29, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Jim I agree that the seal population has affected the fishing I have lived in Hyannis all of my life and ever since I could walk I have been on the water Lewis bay and nantuckets sound is my back yard in all of those years I have never seen seals in the summer months intil last summer I counted 15 from July 4th to end of October I even saw on in pine island cove this explosion of seal is also the reason for the explosion in great whites it's only a matter of time before we see those closer to shore
Chris February 29, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Other areas that have commercial and recreational fisheries are opposite.for instance the red fish is kept when smaller and released if spawning age or coming upon it.having been a life long striped bass fisherman and have had commercial endorsement,I'm careful in my release practices and have witnessed many who aren't.We all I'm afraid can get on a pile and become less concerned with proper release.Now fishing on the beach or in a boat alongside many recreational anglers are absolutely clueless at times with releasing a fish properly with any concern for the health of the fish.many floaters you come across.My experience is that recreational,vacationing thrill of a lifetime catch are indeed lackadaisical in the treatment of fish at best.Pictures,dragging through the sand,gut hooked.No thought of something like circle hooks.Keeping the big ones letting go small ones doesn't seem rational.
Ryan Collins March 07, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Hi Chris, Ryan and Jim, Thanks for reading the article and leaving a comment-much appreciated. For anyone who would like to take action, and possibly be part of a movement that could have some real. long lasting positive impact on our inshore fishery, please consider attending one of the upcoming herring hearings. For those not familiar with pair trawling for herring, these 100 foot plus long boats often come nearly within casting range of shore to scoop up millions upon millions of herring. They have gone way over quotas in past seasons (up to 150% their allotted catch) and are successfully taking a big bite out of the bottom of our local food chain. It's very difficult to say just how much of an impact these boats are having on striped bass fishing, but it's very easy to imagine that inshore bass fishing would significantly improve with millions more herring swimming in tight to the beach. Banning these operations could produce a positive lasting impact for the entire marine ecosystem. I've listed the dates below. Thanks!
Ryan Collins March 07, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 Gloucester, MA 7:00 – 9:00 pm MA DMF Annisquam River Station 30 Emerson Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930 Phone: (978) 282-0308 Thursday, March 15, 2012 Portsmouth, NH 7:00 – 9:00 pm Sheraton Harborside Hotel 250 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801 Phone: (603) 431-2300 Monday, March 19, 2012 Fairhaven, MA 7:00 – 9:00 pm Seaport Inn 110 Middle Street, Fairhaven, MA 02719 Phone: (508) 997-1281 Wednesday, March 21, 2012 Portland, Maine 7:00 – 9:00 pm Holiday Inn By the Bay 88 Spring Street, Portland, ME 04101 Phone: (207) 775-2311 Tuesday, March 27, 2012 Plymouth, Massachusetts 7:00 – 9:00 pm Radisson Hotel Plymouth Harbor 180 Water Street, Plymouth MA 02360 Phone: (508) 747-4900 Wednesday, March 28, 2012 Warwick, RI 7:00 – 9:00 pm Hilton Garden Inn One Thurber Street, Warwick, RI 02886 Phone: (401) 734-9600 Thursday, March 29, 2012 Cape May, New Jersey 7:00 – 9:00 pm Congress Hall Hotel 251 Beach Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 Phone: (609) 884-8421
Stephen Walima August 06, 2012 at 09:19 PM
The Earliest Striper Fishermen were part of the Hunter Gatherer Groups of the Colonies. Stripers are part of a group of Commercial Fisheries known as Traditional Fisheries. This practice was in effect long before the Harbors became full of Recreational Boats and McMansions blossomed along the Shores. A commercial Fishermen is a steward of the Sea knowing that his or her livelyhood depends on it. Catch and release of small fish is taken seriously. Steel Hooks are used and gut hooked fish are cut off and released with minimal truama. Unlike a Sporty trying to get their $15 Orvis Fly back. We use heavier Gear and plain Steel Hooks. The Fish is brought to Boat quicker and if Short released quickly and vibrant. As Commercial Bass Fishermen we carry on the Traditioin making this Great Fish available to those not physically able or none Fishermen. Everyone should be able to enjoy this Bounty and we provide it for those that can't.
kevin mccutcheon December 29, 2012 at 02:01 PM
i dont trust these statistics at all there are too many variables but something should be done about the estimate on the by catch greed is always an ellement thats not taken into account by fisherman and government allike its sad

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