The fish are here — in force.
Striped bass, alewives (also known as herring), black sea bass and squid have arrived for an early start to the fishing season. Striped bass have been seen and caught in hot pursuit of herring swimming into local coastal ponds.
Possibly the biggest story this year is a fish that anglers are not allowed to catch: the herring. Scarce for several years, herring appear to be on the rebound. Officials with the state Division of Marine Fisheries report that herring are in greater numbers at the runs around the state.
A herring moratorium, started more than five years ago, has been in place to protect the dwindling numbers. But a herring comeback is nonetheless a good sign, because a number of other fish use herring as a food source and are attracted to areas where herring are in abundance.
Greater numbers of herring have been sighted at the Wampanoag Tribe’s herring run in Aquinnah. Bret Stearns, director of the natural resource for the tribe, said they’ve seen more fish than a year ago. “We saw evidence of herring way back in February,” Mr. Stearns said.
Herring are anadromous fish. They return each spring from the ocean to enter the Island’s coastal ponds and seek freshwater streams to spawn in freshwater ponds. Squibnocket, the coves in the Tisbury Great Pond, Edgartown Great Pond and Upper Lagoon Pond are known to attract the fish. There is a small herring run at the head of Lake Tashmoo.
David Grunden, shellfish constable for Oak Bluffs, said he’s seen more herring at the run at the Head of Lagoon Pond, a significant improvement over past years. Unfortunately, he also saw plenty of evidence of pouching too. So last month, with the help of others, Mr. Grunden installed wooden fencing to replace the worn and rusted hurricane fencing that covered the fish ladder.
The squid season, which started in April in Nantucket Sound, is also improved over past years. Warren Doty, president of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association, said he was aware of 15 fishing boats dragging the waters of Nantucket Sound for squid.
Gregory Mayhew of Menemsha was out fishing in the Unicorn on Tuesday and affirmed the finding. Mr. Mayhew said he had a fair day, “but the next day [Wednesday] was not worth talking about.”
Pot fishermen have had a good start, particularly conch fishermen who are already busy.
The commercial black sea bass season opened on Wednesday. Paul Caruso of the state Division of Marine Fisheries said the black sea bass are already here, ahead of schedule. “Last year they didn’t show up until the tenth of May. But we are a week earlier,” he said.
The summer quota for black sea bass opened Tuesday and the fishery is expected to last no later than May 31. The quota is 221,936 pounds, less than a quarter of the quota for striped bass. By comparison, it is a small fishery. The season could end more quickly if the fishermen take the quota early. “If the season lasted a couple of weeks I’d be shocked,” Mr. Caruso said.
Any quota that isn’t taken up by May 31, Mr. Caruso said, will be held until the end of summer. Mr. Caruso said fisheries managers are aware that Vineyard pot fishermen want a fall fishery as the price paid is better then.
Recreational fishing for black sea bass opens Friday, May 11. Recreational fishermen are limited to ten fish per day, and fish must be 14 inches long. On June 25, the daily limit rises to 20 fish.
The recreational season for scup opened on Monday. Fishermen are limited to 20 fish a day and the minimum size is 10.5 inches.
The recreational fluke season opens on May 22. Fishermen are limited to a minimum size of 16.5 inches, down an inch from last year. The limit is five fish per day.