Commercial striper season opened Sunday with ground to make up

Commercial striper season opened Sunday with ground to make up

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Locally caught striped bass returned to the fish case at The Net Result in Vineyard Haven Monday. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Striped bass caught in Massachusetts waters returned to fish market shelves this week. Lovers of the most highly sought sport fish along the New England coast who do not have angling skills may want to take advantage of what is expected to be a short commercial season.

The commercial striped bass season opened Sunday. It will remain open until the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) estimates that the state’s quota is about to be reached. Depending on fishing success, that date could be sometime in August.

Striped bass is a highly managed species. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is responsible for managing migratory species, including striped bass, and implementing management plans and quotas along the East Coast.

In 2012, the state’s commercial quota was 1,057,783 pounds. Fishermen caught 1,218,426 pounds, about a 15 percent overage. As a result, in 2013 the quota was set at 997,869 pounds to make up the difference.

Only licensed fishermen and dealers may sell striped bass, subject to strict reporting requirements. Restaurants may buy bass only from licensed dealers.

In an effort to spread out the season and avoid early season gluts, DMF allows fishermen to take five fish on Sundays and 30 fish on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, until the quota is filled.

Commercial fish must be a minimum of 34 inches in length. Recreational fishermen are limited to two fish per day which must be at least 28 inches long.

Commercial possession limits apply to any vessel regardless of the number of commercial permit holders on board. During commercial trips, it is unlawful for commercial fishermen to possess or land a recreational bag limit in addition to their commercial catch or to retain any catch at the recreational minimum size of 28 inches, DMF said.

The 2011 ASMFC stock assessment indicated that the coastwide striped bass population is declining, although it is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring, DMF said. The decline is attributed to poor to below average production of new young in Chesapeake Bay between 2004 and 2010. Further declines in harvest are anticipated until the large 2011 year-class grows and becomes eligible for fishing, DMF said.

Females reach significantly greater sizes than do males; most stripers more than 30 pounds are female. According to DMF, the number of eggs produced by a female striped bass is directly related to the size of its body; a 12-pound female may produce about 850,000 eggs, and a 55-pound female about 4,200,000 eggs.

Although males reach sexual maturity at two or three years of age, no females mature before the age of four, and some not until age six. The size of the females at sexual maturity has been used as a criterion for establishing minimum legal size limit regulations in recent years, DMF said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the commercial size limit is 32 inches. It is 34 inches.


  1. Unless I am mistaken, the commercial size is 34″, not 32″. Also, large striped bass females may produce more eggs, but a much smaller percentage are viable the larger a female bass gets. It has been concluded that 30-32 inch fish produce the most amount of viable eggs, hence the 34″ commercial size limit.

        1. There are not many fowl or any other wild animal other than fish that are harvested commercially.

          Anyway, I understand you’re trying to spin the commercial harvest of bass as environmentally aware, but that’s kind of a joke.

          1. I wasn’t trying to spin anything. I couldn’t care less what you or anyone else thinks. As long as it is legal, I will keep commercial fishing. I was only pointing out that the size limit for commercial is 34″, not 32″.

  2. Scott Terry knows his stuff when it comes to striped bass. He is correct. The minimum commercial size is 34 inches.

    1. Both the commercial and recreational limit should be cut in half ASAP. If what we are seeing on the north shore (of Mass) is any indication too many striped bass are being kept.
      Ted Purcell

  3. If history is any guide, the season will probably last about 5 weeks this year due to the reduced quota. About 2500 commercial fishermen will report sales of their catch (only about half of those who hold striped bass endorsements ever record a sale). The total economic impact of the striper fishery to the Massachusetts economy is $24+ million and about 525 full-time equivalent jobs.

    For perspective, the recreational season in Massachusetts lasts six months, has 600,000 participants, generates $1.1 billion, and contributes nearly 11,000 full-time equivalent jobs. Yet we manage the species as a primarily commercial resource.

    Striped bass are in trouble. The spawn last year was the worst ever recorded but the ASMFC’s hands are tied because of the disproportionate influence of the commercial fishing industry. Managing the species as a game fish will give fisheries managers the freedom to act quickly in the best interests of the fish and for the maximum public benefit.

    It’s time to make striped bass a game fish in Massachusetts – and all along the Atlantic Seaboard.

    1. I agree with you, but you need to highlight the impact of the recreational harvest has on the population as well when you make these claims. Not doing so undermines your point tremendously.

      1. Yes, the sheer number of recreational participants does have an impact. I suppose my point wasn’t so much about the number of fish killed, but the philosophy behind the management plan.

        Managing as a game fish would address the recreational harvest as it would be much easier to reduce (or eliminate) bag limits, immediately effecting a catch-and-release fishery if the population were in crisis. With a commercial harvest, that can never happen apart from under the most dire of circumstances.

        The lessons of red fish in the Gulf states; snook, tarpon, and bonefish in Florida; and *every* species that has been afforded game fish protection is proof that game fish works for the greater public good. Claims that eliminating the commercial fishery would create economic hardship are wildly exaggerated, as are claims that it would deny the public striped bass for the table (how do we ever manage for the other 46 weeks of the year?).

        The numbers bear out the fact that most holders of commercial striped bass endorsements use the privilege as a means of paying for their gear and gas to do something they would do anyway. They are not the hard-luck, hard-working commercial fishermen who are struggling to earn a living on the sea.

    2. Check this out James Pi3. That’s what’s known as a spin. Paid lobbying at it’s finest.

      1. I am a volunteer, not a paid lobbyist. As for any “spin,” please offer a counter argument with specifics, as I’ve done. Otherwise, your reply is as weak as your logic.

        1. Since this letter is not posted under your name, you may well be a volunteer. Is it your contention that no officers or members of Stripers Forever receive compensation for their work? This will be a matter of public record when they receive non-profit status.

          Spin would be pointing out that 2012 was a terrible spawn year while not also pointing out that 2011 was one of the best and not saying that there is a natural cycle of up and down in spawn years.
          Spin would be the gross distortion of the difference in value between commercial and recreational interests and not pointing out that recreational fishermen account for 60-70% of striped bass mortality.
          Spin would be not mentioning the vast numbers of striped bass in federal waters, beyond reach of both commmercial and recreational fishermen, due to increasing water temps and decimation of inshore bait resources.
          I could go on, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

          1. Our hopes for striped bass rest on the 2006 year class, which has only produced a single good spawn, the one you cite, but the trend has been headed in the wrong direction since 2006. Given the effects of myco in some of the Cheasapeake’s prime spawning and nursery areas – infecting/killing as much as 75% of the fish – we can’t sit around and hope for the best.

            I’m not sure what “distortion” of the value of commercial vs. recreational striped bass fishery is. The numbers are what they are. Stripers are managed as a commercial resource but are overwhelmingly a recreational fish. And no one I know disputes the fact that recreational fishing takes more fish than commercial efforts, but the only way that can change is to make stripers a game fish. This I know: the recreational community would gladly accept a drastic reduction of the bag limit in order to protect stripers. The commercial lobby refuses to do the same and have even argued for an increase.

            If you mean to suggest that striped bass are flocking outside the EEZ to avoid capture by commercial fishermen, that’s a ludicrous position. When will you take any responsibility for the impact of targeting spawning sized females and accept any role in the protection of this valuable fish? It’s always seals, water temperature, high water, low water, recreational fishermen, high salinity, low salinity, runoff… anything but yourselves. Yet the commercial striped bass fishery is not penalized statistically for its culls (when that gut-hooked fish comes over the gunwale at 28″ and is discarded, it is just as dead as the 38″ fish that is on ice), high-grading (reached the limit, but caught one 5lbs bigger, so need to toss one over the side to increase the day’s poundage), or the black market fishery that thrives everywhere a commercial market exists.

            Finally, SF is a volunteer organization. Our board is not paid. We have no paid staff. What money we raise largely goes to maintain day-to-day expenses, such as the operation of our web site ( Our efforts are focused solely on protecting striped bass. I can promise you that whatever money we spend to advance the cause of game fish for striped bass is dwarfed by the commercial interests.

            But if you still think it’s fair for .5% of the constituency to dictate how striped bass are managed for the remaining 95.5%, I suppose that is your right.

  4. One of the strongest arguments for game fish status lies in the change in fisheries management approach. When managed for commercial purposes, the goal is to maximize the number killed (hopefully over a long time horizon but generally that has not been the case). But when managed for recreational purposes, the goal is to maximize the number of living members of that species, be it upland game, waterfowl, or tarpon, redfish, snook or striped bass. To manage for both purposes simultaneously doesn’t work very well, as we have already seen too clearly. Managing striped bass as a gamefish would mean managing them for maximum abundance, as that would bring in many more people to fish for them and spend far more money per year in this state than the commercial fishery would generate over a full century! It has been estimated that the value of wild striped bass for recreational purposes (see the Southwick Report at — based on recreational anglers’ spending — is $133/pound, while their commercial value is about $6/pound. This means for every single pound of wild striped bass sold in a commercial market for $6.00/pound — for every single pound, that is! — we are losing (and thus throwing away) fully $127.00 in economic value! And that makes no sense at all. To realize and protect their full (and very high) value, we need to make striped bass a gamefish, and stop throwing them away for a pittance…

  5. Harvesting females under 30″ would prevent them from going through 2 spawning cycles. This is why fishery biologists adopted the 34″ regulation.