Hello Gang, It is the time of year when I have more time than usual during the other three seasons. When possible, I try to get involved into issues that I feel will help the fisheries that we love so much. As you know our stripers are quite voracious feeders, preying on just about anything, including lobsters, sculpin, crabs etc, when normal food sources such as sand eels, menhaden, or herring get less available. The menhaden (pogies, bunker etc.) are being harvested to the point that the stripers are utilizing other food sources to remain healthy. While tuna fishing, we catch stripers on the bottom in 300 feet of water right in the schools of herring. These fish are easily released from the hooks and swim away relatively unharmed. What we learn from this is that the bass that we think are usually found inshore are 40 miles from shore in deep water, on the bottom at certain times of the year.
At the same time the stripers are migrating to the south and feeding heavily on the herring, bottom trawlers are dragging for codfish, catching an alarming amount of stripers in the net. When brought to the surface under the weight of the fish in the net, the bass are crushed and since they cannot be retained and sold, they are thrown back. Dead and wasted, they are not used by any but the gulls and petrels. Most of these fish are 36 inches or better in size.
At other times of the year, the herring mid water boats (trawlers of great size) are scooping up huge amounts of the baitfish that our sport and commercial stocks need to exist. There are no NMFS observers on these boats to record what is or isnt caught as bycatch. Just due to where they fish in the water column, it is obvious that they take juvenile cod and the opportunistic stripers.
I would like to see the NEFMC (New England Fishery Managment Council) and NMFS ( National Marine Fisheries Service) ensure that this resource is not being overexploited and make sure that there is proper ( a certain percentage of trips) observer coverage on the boats. If you are interested in this issue, please email me back and I will forward to you what information I have in the hopes that you will pass it on to others.
Thanks, Bruce & Miss Jillian