The local seafood economy is about to get a big boost: The commercial striped bass season opens on Thursday, July 12.
While the recreational angler has been out enjoying the benefits of catching striped bass since before spring, restaurant-goers get their chance next week.
Commercial fishermen are permitted to land and sell their striped bass on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Except for Sunday, when the bag limit is five fish, the daily landing limit is 30 fish. The minimum size is 34 inches.
Recreational fishermen have a limit of two 28-inch fish per day in their year-round season. They can fish any day they like and they are not subject to a quota.
This year, the Massachusetts commercial striped bass quota is 1,057,783 pounds, about 100,000 pounds less than last year. The reduction was established primarily because too much fish was harvested last summer, and that overage—9 per cent in this case—has to come out of this year’s harvest, according to Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the Division of Marine Fisheries. Quota management is set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which oversees all the harvesting of striped bass along the eastern seaboard.
Massachusetts lands more striped bass commercially than any other state. New York state comes in second. The total regional quota last year was 3.8 million pounds.
In 2011, the Massachusetts quota was taken quickly and the fishery closed on August 11, barely a month after the commercial fishery opened. A large amount of striped bass were taken off Chatham last year and the year before. Local anglers, both recreational and commercial, are hopeful there will be more fish in these waters this summer. An abundance of squid around the Island may help answer their prayers. It is widely known that big fish go where the little fish are in residence. The Chatham striper goldmine was attributed to lots of bait offshore.
The fluke season is well underway for both the commercial fishermen, who drag the waters of Vineyard Sound with nets, as well as the recreational anglers, who fish with rod and reel nearby. Fluke, also called summer flounder, are an abundant resource, and Vineyard fish markets have plenty. In just a few years, summer flounder have earned the name “Vineyard sole.”
Tomorrow brings the start of the 13th annual Fluke Tournament, run by the Veterans of Foreign War Post 9261 out of Oak Bluffs. Peter Herrmann, chairman of the event, was gearing up this week for the two-day contest. Fishermen of all ages will compete all around Vineyard waters Saturday and Sunday for the largest fluke. The contest is principally for boat fishermen, though it is possible to catch fluke from the shore.
Registration for the contest is available at all the local tackle shops. The fee is $20 for adults, $10 for seniors and teenagers between 13 to 16. Children 12 and under are free, but they still need to register. There is team competition, too; teams will be judged on the highest total weight during the two-day contest. The fee for teams is $40. Half the money brought in with the team fee is given back in cash prizes. “A team could make a couple of hundred dollars, depending on how many teams are entered in the contest,” Mr. Herrmann said.
The weigh-in will be at the VFW hall on Towanticut avenue in Oak Bluffs, from 4 to 6 p.m. Following the Sunday weigh-in there will be a cookout with an awards ceremony. The food is free for participants and there is a good chance that most, if not all kids walk home with a prize. “This competition was started mostly to benefit the kids,” Mr. Herrmann said. There is also a prize for the largest sea bass.
Fishing for fluke is mostly done from a boat. A rod or a dropline can be used. The technique for catching fluke has many variations, but essentially it is a baited hook jigged off the bottom.
Dragger fluke fishermen will work Vineyard Sound near Lucas Shoal. The rod and reel anglers usually fish the shoals: Lucas Shoal and Middle Ground, which are in Vineyard Sound. In Nantucket Sound, the anglers will pick Hedge Fence as a popular and productive spot.
Closer to shore, anglers catch fluke as well. Mr. Herrmann said, “I used to go scuba diving off the jetties and there were fluke right there at the edge of the jetty. With that message, anglers can go fishing pretty much anywhere on a dock or off a jetty and catch a fluke. They can also catch a number of other species. A small piece of squid on a hook with some kind of weight will work fine. That piece of squid could attract any of a whole lot of different species: striped bass, bluefish, sea robin, scup and cunners.
Fluke fishermen have a different minimum size than last year. This year the minimum size came down an inch, to 16 1/2 inches. Recreational fishermen are allowed a bag limit of five fish per day. The season runs from May 22 to Sept. 30.
With the water temperature running ahead of the season, we are curious when the first Atlantic bonito will show up. Please let the Gazette know if you catch one. Normally, Atlantic bonito show up in mid-July. They are fast and furious little tuna that jump- start the fishing season for those who have already had fun with striped bass, bluefish and are looking for more excitement.