Here are some of one man’s observations from over 70 years of fishing for the elusive striped bass and what I have witnessed along the way. It is also important for me to say that I have never held a commercial permit nor have I ever sold a single striped bass in all of those years.
As a recreational angler I have seen the lack of local and federal management when it comes to striped bass and countless other species. For example, we as recreational shore fishermen once had cod, pollock, smelt, flounder, sea bass, scup, fluke, and silver hake [whiting] available, along with an occasional haddock to fish on. We now have the striped bass as the only species that the majorities are fishing for.
In the past those fishing had other species to fish for along our coastline without a boat. We never needed a boat to catch many species of size from the jetties or piers along our coast.
Couple that with many more who are fishing the local shorelines here along the Cape Cod Canal and the great influx of many different cultures that are fishing.
Because our permits are written in English, those who speak other languages may not understand the full meaning of why we have size limits and total numbers we can keep. It is important to understand that some of the different cultures that fish came from countries that had no such laws in place; therefore it remains a free-for-all when they fish. We have some who feel that the striped bass reduction is because of the legal commercial catch and yet, factually, it has been proven that the recreational fishermen kill more fish.
Those who make a living by chartering remain a commercial enterprise and yet make attempts to eliminate the commercial take, so that they can have larger fish to catch when they take out their “sports.” Until recently, the charter boats also held commercial permits to sell all the fish they could catch on the 15 fish limit per day. In some cases they actually would sell the fish on the market and keep all of the money or split some with the fares. This was while they also were charging a good fee to take folks out fishing.
It is important to also understand that the Cape Cod Canal Region has become the mecca for striped bass and those who fish for them come from all over the United States to catch them. One reason is because the fish have been in suicide mode for over three years now, where everyone and anyone set up to fish can be assured of a fish of size to take home, for whatever reason, to eat or sell. It is important to understand that the viable striped bass fishery no longer exists in many of the states. That is another reason we see an influx of those fishing, especially during some current changes.
It is also important to understand that poaching remains a continued problem as a result of the court system dismissing the proper punishment, because it does not have the same degree of concern for someone who is treated like a felon. That is why I have proposed making all fin-fish laws a crime against the environment. It will take an act by the Massachusetts legislators to pass it and give it the importance to be treated like any felon would be. It will provide a better process that assures every one that any infractions of the laws for fin fish will be adjudicated completely and totally for the species in question. All would be treated equally and fairly to help keep this last resource, the striped bass, around for the future generations to come.
It also should be noted that every species resource belongs to both recreational and commercial legal fishermen. It is up to each of us to practice a good ethical and personal guideline that will enhance the resources for future generations to come. Obey the laws yourself and set good examples for those who come from far places to live, work and fish here.
Mr. Johansen has spent a lifetime fishing in town. He lives on Oxford Road.