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Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Good coin on striped bass

By Chris Gatley

Striped bass commercial fishing in Massachusetts is alive and well, especially in this economy.

For as little as $65, a license holder can land and sell striped bass legally. What many don't know is that the number of commercial striped bass fishermen is higher than you think.

With regulations aimed at taking breeding class fish, are we doing more harm than good for future stocks?

It stands to reason that any angler, if capable of catching fish they can sell, will. With current striped bass yielding $2.65 per pound, and a 30-fish limit on most fishing days, money can add up fast.

The State of Massachusetts allows both resident and non-residents to apply for commercial licenses. Upon receipt, fishermen may land and sell finfish, shellfish, lobsters, edible crabs or other living marine resources in Massachusetts.

And, a holder of a commercial license, which are issued by the Division of Marine Fisheries, can apply for any and all specie specific permits.

When you break down all of the different permits and species, one clearly sticks out -- striped bass hunters. And that's for good reason. Massachusetts offers a 'Rod and Reel' commercial license allowing a hand-line or fishing rod to be used in conjunction with bait or artificial lures. This opens the door to allow anyone to apply and in most cases, receive the commercial permit.

Once the quota is met however, the season is closed regardless of how many permits exist. Now, up here, most commercial license holders fall under the rod and reel category and use methods such as wire-line and parachutes or bunker as their primary means of catching striped bass.

This year however, some permit holders tell me that the bunker population is low. They say that a commercial angler stuck in bait-chucking ways are experiencing a tough season. The guys trolling or 'jerking' wire line outfitted with parachute jigs, umbrella rigs or even those casting lures have been highly successful.

In fact, one source has been using 9-inch white SluG-go's on a four-ounce lead-head jig has been destroying the striped bass. And lately, a white Sebile Magic Swimmer has been cleaning house. Those ultra secretive Cape Cod Canal guys casting Sebile's from the shadows know exactly what I am talking about.

One source does not fish on Sundays but during the week has been averaging 25 striped bass, well over the 34-inch limit and pretty much everyday. With a market price at $2.65 per pound, they have taken this job to a whole different level.

These guys are purchasing the right products, giving the fish what they want and going to market with near limits of heavy fish. Needless to say, they are enjoying this year's striper fishing season.

I should point out that the Massachusetts commercial fishery is highly regulated. Commercial fishing may only occur on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

In addition, commercial striped bass anglers may only fish in "Coastal Waters," those under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They include Mass. Bay, Cape Cod Bay, Nantucket Sound as well as the waters within the rise and fall of the tide and that extend three miles offshore.

On Sundays, each commercial angler may harvest only five striped bass no less than 34 inches in length. The three open weekdays, each commercial permit holder may harvest 30 fish each day no less than 34 inches. So, it stands to reason that commercial anglers will in fact strive for their daily limit and catch the largest striped bass swimming in their waters. I'll let you decide on whether or not this commercial fishery is killing breeding class fish.

Each month, detailed Catch Reports must be submitted to the state by each commercial permit holders. Managing the quota is serious business and the commercial guys I know live on the updated quota website. As I write this report, the current striped bass quota is 1,128,577 pounds. So far, around 50 percent of the quota has been met.

It looks like good coin can still be made if you get out and fish, select the right tactic and catch them before the next guy.

Editor's note: Capt. Chris Gatley can be found with his fishing clients chasing striped bass in front of the Statue of Liberty, or heading offshore to the Atlantic Ocean canyons off the NJ/NY coast for tuna. His articles on cutting-edge fishing techniques can be found in The Fisherman Magazine, and he's a regular presenter at key sports shows during the winter months (when he's not pursuing whatever he can find in East Coast rivers).