The commercial striped bass season ended last Monday and Alec Gale of West Tisbury said it was the worst season he has seen in the six years he has been hauling fish to the mainland for the local anglers. “It was a slow season, and it wasn’t because of overfishing,” Mr. Gale said. “I think it was a lack of bait and the warm water temperature.”
Most of the striped bass harvested in Massachusetts, a 1.128 million pound quota, was taken somewhere else. Mr. Gale said he heard reports of large amounts of striped bass being harvested east of Chatham. The season began July 13 and ended this past Monday, August 23.
Observations were verified by Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries. Mr. McKiernan said there were a lot of sand eels and Atlantic herring swimming east of Chatham and that attracted lots of striped bass, tuna, dogfish and whales. “Whales were spotted swimming within a quarter of a mile from the beach,” Mr. McKiernan.
Mr. McKiernan said the confluence of fish brought out a large gathering of fishermen that created a nightmare for the town officials of Chatham, who hadn’t ever seen so many fishermen converge on the area. They brought their boats, their gear. “The town officials have to figure out what they are going to do next year if it happens again,” Mr. McKiernan said.
Steve Morris at Dick’s Bait and Tackle Shop said he heard the Menemsha commercial striped bass anglers had a tough time finding fish. “Those highliners in Menemsha just didn’t do the numbers they are accustomed to doing,” Mr. Morris said.
Those who were especially hit hard were the anglers who try to make some money to cover the cost of fuel. To the commercial striped bass hobbyist, Mr. Morris said it didn’t happen this summer.
Mr. Morris said that among the top commercial anglers he’d spoken to, they each like to harvest their weekly limit of 95 fish. Fishermen have a daily limit. They are allowed a bag limit of 30 fish each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the week; plus a trip limit of five on Sunday.
“The way I heard it, in the seven weeks of fishing, there was just one week where some of those fishermen met their goal,” Mr. Morris said.
Mr. Morris believes the decline in fish was due to a shortage of bait. “We didn’t have the mackerel. It either happened or it happened early,” he said.
There were some reports around the Island of peanut bunker, tiny menhaden, but nothing like years ago. Sand eels are around but they are small. “I’ve heard that the Cape Cod Canal was full of tinker mackerel. I also heard Boston Harbor is alive with tinker mackerel,” Mr. Morris said.
Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd, of Coop’s Bait and Tackle Shop, said there has been squid in these waters all summer. Butterfish have made an appearance in Edgartown harbor.
If you are looking for fish, you go where they are eating.
The commercial fluke season was going to end this week; it has been extended to August 31. The extension gives the Menemsha dragger fleet, a present at the end of the summer, one they weren’t expecting.
Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said that due to late-breaking landings data and because of the foul weather earlier this week, the 846,667 pound quota won’t be reached for a few more days.
Alec Gale, of West Tisbury, who has been transporting the Menemsha dragger landings to mainland markets, said this was a good summer for the fishermen who depend on fluke for a summer livelihood. Mr. Gale said the draggermen took a little longer getting their daily trip limit of 300 pounds and that the landings here were slightly off from last year, but again that is probably due to other factors, and not to a lack of fish.
The recreational season for fluke ends on September 6.
The state is planning to raise the quota for fluke next year based on continued recovery.
This past week’s big northeaster mobilized almost a dozen fishermen and shellfishmen to Cape Pogue Pond to capture the juvenile bay scallops that were flung up on the beach by the waves.
Warren Gaines, Edgartown deputy shellfish constable, said that the pickup trucks started rolling on Tuesday. In just two days of effort, the fishermen transported more than a million baby scallops, each the size of a dime or nickel, from the Cape Pogue southwest shoreline to Sengekontacket Pond for release.
Whenever the wind blows hard from the northeast, the fetch causes the waves to start crashing onto the shore on the southwest corner of the pond. The bay scallops on that corner of the pond were just shallow enough to be lifted by the waves and thrown on the beach. Mr. Gaines said it was pretty easy collecting the shellfish. There were so many of them.
Sengekontacket is in need of a lot of help from the shellfishermen. The pond hasn’t had a good set of bay scallops in years. The shellfish department will keep stocking the pond with juveniles from Cape Pogue in the hope that some year the coastal pond will recover.
This was a great summer for bay scallop seed in Cape Pogue. The fishermen have rarely seen so many shellfish spread across the bottom of the pond.
The 65th annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby is only a few weeks away. Registration forms and buttons are already available at the local tackle shops. The month-long fishing derby starts on Sunday, Sept. 12 and it runs through Saturday, October 16.
Ed Jerome, president of the derby, said there are no significant changes to this year’s contest. The changes have come from outside of the derby. Now all Massachusetts recreational anglers are required to acquire a Federal Angler Registry Card.
In order to participate in the derby, fishermen must comply with all state and federal regulations. While registering in the federal register is immediate when you sign in through the Internet, it is a good idea to register now. To register on line visit the following Website: www.countmyfish.noaa.gov or call 888-674-7411. It is free.
More than 2,900 anglers participated in last year’s contest and won over a half million dollars in prizes. Fishermen landed over 10,000 pounds of bluefish, 8,000 pounds of striped bass and over 2,000 pounds of bonito and another 2,000 pounds of false albacore. This year’s contest will likely do the same.
This year the fishing season looks great for bluefish. The striped bass may have been slow this summer, but it is a mystery what the fall migration will bring. False albacore are here but in low numbers. Bonito are also scarce, but they are here.
Registration is $45 for all tackle divisions and $45 for flyrod divisions. Junior fishermen and seniors are charged $20.