Striped bass is one of the Island's favorite seasonal fish. And its season in fish markets and restaurants is about to close for another year.
The state Division of Marine Fisheries announced this week that the commercial season will end on Thursday, August 8. Markets and restaurants can continue to sell the fish into the following week. There has been no shortage of striped bass; the closure comes because fisheries managers calculate that the state quota of 802,000 pounds will be met.
Striped bass are the eastern seaboard's prime gamefish. From Maine to Virginia, anglers pursue the fish from spring through fall. Although the commercial season closes, recreational fishermen can continue to fish for striped bass without any added restraints. The month-long Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, seven weeks away, is not affected by the commercial closure.
Will Holtham, owner of the Home Port restaurant in Menemsha, said: "It is a wonderful fish. The supply has been good all summer. But you know, it is time to give them something different when it comes to the fish of the day. I will serve yellowfin tuna instead."
The commercial striped bass season opened July 3 and fish have been landed daily ever since. Commercial fishermen have been limited to a boat limit of 40 fish per day. The minimum size for the fish is 34 inches.
"It has been a great season. Some of the fish we've seen have still been wiggling when we get them," Mr. Holtham said.
"It seems early to me," said Warren Doty of Menemsha Basin Seafood in Vineyard Haven. Mr. Doty buys a lot of shellfish, conch and fluke during the summer. "We've been shipping a few striped bass; it is not one of our biggest items," Mr. Doty said. "I will tell you that the markets and the restaurants will miss it. It is a shame, it is a beautiful fish."
Louis Larsen of the Net Result, a fish market in Vineyard Haven, thinks he has a better idea about the management of striped bass that would extend the season without raising the quota. Mr. Larsen said if the state were to set a limit of 20 fish per boat instead of 40, the quota wouldn't be taken so quickly.
Mr. Larsen said his customers like to buy striped bass through the summer. He said he'd like to be able to offer the fish later in the season.
Fish markets and restaurants have five days to sell their inventory of fish once the closure takes place. That means Vineyard consumers have less than two weeks to enjoy the fish without going out and catching it themselves.
After the fishery closes, the only way one can have a striped bass for dinner is to have a friend catch the fish or get a rod and reel and head for the shore.
The recreational rules remain the same. Fishermen are permitted to take one fish per day, and that fish must be 28 inches in length or larger.
Later this month the state Division of Marine Fisheries will hold public hearings on changes in the recreational limit. There is a proposal to expand the limit to two fish a day, the first fish measuring at least 28 inches and the second fish measuring at least 40 inches. There is also a proposal to raise the commercial quota from 807,000 pounds to one million pounds.
The hearings will take place Monday, August 12, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and on Tuesday, August 13, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Annisquam River Marine Fisheries Station. Written comments will be accepted by the state until 5 p.m. August 16. For more information, call 617-626-1520.