The recently released federal assessment of the Striped Bass population paints a grim picture of our current situation. Striped Bass numbers are down. Captain Joe and I have seen this trend first hand over the last four or five years. The charter boat fleet out of Truro, Provincetown, Wellfleet and Rock Harbor have all caught their fair share. We notice the drop off with recreational boaters and shore fisherman who occasionally try their luck. More often than not, they have a hard time finding fish. The federal assessment was a forgone conclusion for most of us who are on the water daily. We saw it on the water and in the fish market, where the price of Striped Bass averaged $23 a pound last summer. The state of Massachusetts ultimately left alone the regulations for this upcoming year. However, we all sense that next year will mark a change. In acknowledgement of that change the state has issued a new vanity license plate, promoting Striper conservation. It’s a small first step to the ultimate goal of designating the Striped Bass a Sport Fish and eliminating the commercial harvest.
Captain Joe and I have always practiced conservation aboard the Nauset. Regular customers always hear Joe’s reminder that each fish provides on average 4-5 lbs of fillets. That’s the size of a roast. And that’s one fish! A six person charter conceivably can and sometimes do, walk off the dock with 25-30 lbs of fillets. In the excitement of the day, it’s easy to get “lost” in the moment and take as many as the law allows. Our motto has always been, ” take only what you know you’ll use” let’s throw back safely the rest so that they can provide the same thrill for other anglers.
In my mind, the ultimate height of conservation is returning to the water a once in a lifetime trophy fish. There is, however, some deep seated instinct to harvest the largest. We’ve all felt it. Poignantly, in years past most trophy Striped Bass ended up mounted on a Den wall. That view has changed. Each year, we see more and more conservation minded anglers, return the large breeders back to fight another day. We were recently reminded of this when our good friend Peder from New Jersey sent us a photo from an early Spring Striper trip last week. The fish weighed 54lbs and fought gallantly. It was certainly a once in a lifetime catch. Peder, always the consummate sportsman, allowed for only a few photos because he didn’t want to stress the fish. He then gently revived it by pushing her back and forth alongside the boat forcing water over the gills before setting her free. Bravo! Let’s all be a little bit more mindful as we head into what we hope will be our best fishing season ever. We hope to see you soon!