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December 15, 2017

Outdoors: New bass regulations are welcome

Everyone who loves striped bass hoped it would happen. With their stocks plummeting up and down the East Coast, regulations for commercial and recreational fishermen had to change. This year will see a harvest reduction of 25 percent (21.5 percent in Chesapeake Bay), but no one knows for certain if that reduction is enough.

Most likely, we’ll be allowed one fish instead of two per day. Some anglers will naturally gripe considering the modest reward for all the time and gas money spent to get into the bass. But most ethical fishermen and charter boat captains that I have talked to are deeply concerned about the future of our fishery and fully supportive of the reduction. Stripers Forever survey respondents want to ban the harvest of large, prime breeding size stripers until the resource biomass stock is healthier. They also are willing to finance a striped bass conservation stamp to pay for buying out the commercial fishery.

It’s possible that individual states may get an option to initiate a “conservation equivalent” to a one-fish, 28-inch minimum size limit. Some states could possibly, for example, maintain a two-fish limit with a different minimum size. The point is to get as many stripers as possible to breed at least once before they’re legal to harvest. Of course, the larger the female, the more eggs she can produce. We also should be protecting as many of the cows as possible because they are the basis of our sport.

Female stripers can start breeding at about age 4, when they’re around 24 inches long. Males can breed a year earlier, when they’re only about 20 inches long. While a larger, two-fish equivalent policy theoretically could help us get to the needed 25 percent reduction in striper mortality, it seems against the spirit of the effort and not our best alternative. We could definitely do better with a one-fish limit. Many here hope there will be no scheming, and that all states will uniformly implement a one-fish-per-day limit.

At this moment, there are some holdover stripers in New England waters, including big rivers like the Thames and little creeks and harbors at the Cape. But the vast majority of them are now in their offshore, warmer-than-New England wintering grounds off Virginia and North Carolina. They’re going to be vulnerable to increased commercial and recreational pressure as soon as they begin their coastal migration to spawn in Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware, and Hudson River. We won’t see them in numbers here until the first schoolies arrive in early May. The big ones should begin coming through the Canal in mid-May. Much will depend upon how cold our winter is.

Last winter was brutally long. Ocean temperatures remained very cold for a longer-than-normal period. Our stripers, which are very temperature-dependent in their movements, were consequently about two weeks late. Bet on them coming back only when we see ocean temperatures flirt with 50-55 degrees and bait fish especially squid and mackerel move in ahead of them.

Saving bluefins

New regulations are also expected for bluefin tuna stocks, which experience serious mortality as part of by-catch during commercial long-line fishing for yellowfin tuna and swordfish. The bluefins spawn in the Gulf of Mexico where they feed very little, if at all. They winter off North Carolina, where food is abundant and they can begin packing on some weight. In both areas, they’re being taken in big numbers.

While less lethal equipment changes will be implemented, what may help the stocks even more will be a closure to the swordfish and yellowfin tuna fishing once the maximum number for incidental kills of bluefins is reached. While cheating has previously been common, that may finally change significantly with the mandating of video cameras on board commercial vessels to chronicle everything that’s being caught and thrown back.

Big-time knowledge

Serious big boat saltwater fishermen willing to spend $150 to improve their knowledge and skills might want to attend Goose Hummock’s Offshore Bluewater Bash today and Saturday. At the Quincy Boston Marriott on 1000 Marriott Drive, Quincy, two days of in-depth seminars will cover techniques for bluefin tuna, sharks, swordfish, marlin and other pelagic species. Some of the leading professionals in the Northeast will be conducting the seminars, which will concentrate on waters from Stellwagen Bank, east of Chatham, south of the islands, and the offshore canyons. For tickets and information, contact Goose Hummock Shop at (508) 255-0455 or visit www.goose.com/offshore.html.

Must-see viewing

On the Water TV, available on Comcast Sportsnet at 10 a.m. Sundays and 1 p.m. Fridays, will be featuring many of our region’s hottest fishing destinations in its Season 12 this year. Monster Carp on the Blackstone River will resonate with many locals. They’ll also feature Cape Cod Stripers in the Rips, Inshore Methods for Bonito & Albies, Maine Wilderness Kayak Fishing and Top-Water Bluefin Tuna.

Calendar

◼Today-Sunday Northeast Fishing & Hunting Show. Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford. $12. Info: www.fishinghuntingexpo.com.

◼Today-Saturday Goose Hummock Offshore Bluewater Bash saltwater fishing seminar concentrating on tuna and swordfish. Quincy Boston Marriott, 1000 Marriott Drive, Quincy. $150 includes seminars both days, free beer Friday night, breakfast, and lunch Saturday. Info: www.goose.com/bluewaterbash.html.

◼Saturday-Feb. 22 New England Boat Show. Boston Convention Center, 415 Summer St., Boston. 800 boats. 100 boat seminars. $15. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Info: www.NewEnglandBoatShow.com.

◼Sunday Cutting, Mowing, and Burning for Wildlife (ruffed grouse, woodcock, New England cottontails, whip-poorwills etc.) Sterling Land Trust. Free. Speaker Rebecca DiGirolomo, MassWildlife biologist. 2:30 p.m. in the First Church Parish Hall, 6 Meetinghouse Hill Road, Sterling. Light refreshments. Info: Marion Larson, (978) 422-5165.

◼Sunday Leicester Rod & Gun meat raffles every Sunday at 2 p.m.

◼Thursday-Sunday Springfield Sportsmen’s Show. Eastern States Exposition. Info: www.osegsportsmens.com.

◼Feb. 21-22 Rutland Sportsman’s Club Annual Ice Fishing Derby. Saturday 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Weigh-in 1-5 p.m. Sunday 6 a.m.-4 p.m. Weigh-in noon-4 p.m. Open to all Massachusetts fishing license holders. All Massachusetts freshwater lakes and ponds eligible. Four prizes each for bass, yellow perch, pickerel, and pike. Headquarters at Rutland Sportsman’s Club, 75 Pleasantdale Road, Rutland, (508) 886-4721. Tickets available every day at the club after 3 p.m. and at B&A Bait and Tackle.

Contact Mark Blazis at markblazis@charter.net.

Originally posted here: 

Outdoors: New bass regulations are welcome