Striped bass return to Martha’s Vineyard waters

Russ Lawrence holds up his first striped bass of a new season.

Martha’s Vineyard fishermen have had much to celebrate the past few weeks. The striped bass have returned to Island waters.

The first reports came from fishermen casting along the south shore from Tisbury Great Pond to Wasque Point. Small fish appeared to be abundant, a welcome sign for those concerned about what appears to be a general decline in bass numbers despite the optimistic appraisal of fishery managers.

Russ Lawrence of Edgartown reported that he caught his first fish of the new season and first “keeper,” a fish larger than the 28-inch legal minimum size limit, on Friday, April 20. More good fishing is expected.

Although the overall abundance of striped bass has declined, striped bass stocks along the Atlantic coast are healthy and overfishing is not occurring, the federal agency responsible for monitoring Atlantic coast fish species said in an annual report released November.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a 15-member body responsible for managing species and implementing management plans along the East Coast, provided that rosy assessment at its annual meeting in Boston on November 8, 2011.

With few exceptions, all fishermen must have a Massachusetts saltwater fishing permit to fish in saltwater.