The Dawn Marie is rising and falling in the gray swells, one of a hundred boats crowded together in search of striped bass — sometimes called America’s fish — on the Chesapeake Bay. Captain John Motovidlak, 72, has six fishing customers aboard the vessel, which departed from a dock on Kent Island in Queen Anne’s County, Md. They paid $110 apiece to charter the boat, and they expect to catch and keep a cooler full of striped bass by day’s end.
It was likely they would succeed: Motovidlak has a half-century of on-the-water experience as well as a high-tech fish finder that scans the bay. It doesn’t take him long to get over a school of what the fishermen call “stripers,” also known widely in the Chesapeake area as rockfish, a species valued for its white, flaky meat. “Fish on!” one young man yells as his line goes taut.
A few months earlier, a New England-based nonprofit group called Stripers Forever, aimed at protecting the striped bass as a game fish, called for a 10-year moratorium on the harvest of stripers from Maine to North Carolina, including in the Chesapeake, the largest striped bass nursery area on the East Coast. Anglers could still catch striped bass, but every one would have to be released. Many who fish for sport do that already. For Motovidlak, his charter customers and any of the hundreds of other fishermen looking for a meal on this cool June morning, however, a moratorium would mean no fish filets. “What it means is retirement,” he said of a potential moratorium, which, if enacted, would be carried out by state officials.
Fish, particularly species known as both sporting fish and table fare like the striped bass, need to be managed, collectively, among the states where they are sought. There’s often tinkering year to year, a tidelike give-and-take of state regulations — such as rules governing how many fish one person can keep — to appease recreational anglers, charter boat captains and commercial fishermen. That tinkering extends to other species of fish the striped bass eat. In some places, like the Chesapeake, Cape Cod and Montauk, at the eastern tip of Long Island, striped bass are intertwined with both the economy and the culture.
Stripers Forever believes the time for tinkering is over when it comes to striped bass. The call for a 10-year moratorium is an alarm meant to wake up anyone who believes the stock is healthy, says Mike Spinney, a member of the national board of Stripers Forever. “Immediately after we made that suggestion, the conversation changed,” Spinney, a Massachusetts resident, told me. “We got lambasted by some, but we received positive reception from others. The fact that people are debating whether this is the right approach is a plus for us. Why do we have to wait for a collapse to take action that is necessary now?”
Most of the Atlantic’s striped bass spawn in the Chesapeake Bay and its many tributaries each spring, and juveniles often stay there for years before heading into open ocean. Counting fish is not easy, obviously, and extrapolations are made based on the size of large breeding females known as cows. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which oversees management of the species for the Eastern states, has deemed the striped bass “overfished,” based on a 2018 assessment. The commission also found the striped bass’s mortality rate was high, meaning too many fish that are caught and released are not surviving.
“The stock is declining, and we’ve been seeing that in the stock assessments,” says Toni Kerns, the ASMFC’s fisheries policy director. As a result, the commission told states they needed to reduce the overall “removals” of the fish from the water, whether they are taken for food or accidentally killed. Lowering removals is often done in myriad ways, including instituting open and closed seasons, regulating the size of fish that can be kept and requiring the use of specific hooks aimed at reducing mortality. In Maryland, in June, each fisherman on Motovidlak’s boat was allowed to keep two striped bass between 19 and 28 inches. Everyone caught two legal fish, and plenty of smaller ones were thrown back. Occasionally, small dead stripers floated past the Dawn Marie and other boats.
Spinney, of Stripers Forever, says Maryland is the striped bass’s worst enemy on the East Coast, likening the state to Nero, fiddling while Rome burned. “Maryland is at the top of the list for the continued decline of striped bass and against taking action,” he told me.
Mike Luisi, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Monitoring and Assessment Division of Fishing and Boating Services, points out that managing an ecosystem is not black and white, and that one must take the needs of the fish and all types of fishermen into account when making rules. “We have to find a balance, and that’s not as simple as some people think,” Luisi told me. “There’s a lot riding on it.” The state has had moratoriums in the past, he notes, “but we don’t believe we’re at that point again. There’s other things we can try to do to help the population rebound before we do that. We can reduce the amount of fish you could take home, for instance.”
Motovidlak has been fishing so long that he’s used to most regulation changes and rolls with them. It’s the more recent hook requirements that really irk him. Traditional hooks, shaped like the letter “J,” can be swallowed more easily when a striped bass inhales bait. A fish that swallows a hook into its stomach is usually doomed. In 2018, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources required fishermen like Motovidlak to use circle hooks, which have more bent angles meant to pierce the fish’s mouth and lips.
Motovidlak says he catches fewer fish with circle hooks and some still get “gut hooked” and die anyway. He hates circle hooks so much that in 2019, undercover DNR officers posing as fishermen on his boat found that he wasn’t using them and fined him for the hook infraction and other violations. “That was my first ticket in 49 years,” he says. “I’m on probation.”
For Nick Li, a recreational angler from Yorktown, Va., who catches 50-plus stripers a year over 40 inches long in the bay and the Atlantic, the thought of a moratorium brings mixed feelings. He knows a moratorium would be best for the fish and his interests: Li, 26, has never kept a single striped bass to eat, only handling them long enough to take a photo before releasing them. “I value them as a sport fish, not for food,” Li says. But he also knows a moratorium would possibly end a way of life for many bay watermen.
On the Dawn Marie, amid all the hooking, netting, measuring, baiting and chumming, Elam Fisher, the patriarch of the family who came from Pennsylvania to charter the boat, seemed puzzled when I asked if he would still visit Maryland to fish if he couldn’t keep any. “No,” he said, after a few seconds. “What would be the point of that?”
Jason Nark is a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and a freelance writer.
Shellfish permits are now available BY MAIL and ONLINE ONLY. NO WALKINS AT THE TOWN HALL.
I just did it online at www.falmouthma.gov
Open Shellfish areas:
Oyster season is Oct thru March, so you have only 15 more days in March before it closes until October.
Closing of shellfish areas
As many of you know, there was an article in the news that the Federal govt
is planning to enforce laws on shellfishing near boat moorings, which might mean the closure of most shellfish areas in Falmouth. Falmouth Marine and Environmental is working with the state and federal authorities to modify these regulations. No idea when any decisions will be made.
Published in 2005, the fact sheet on "Public Rights Along the Shoreline" was developed by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM).
Coastal managers are often asked, "Who owns the sea and shore?" If you have been curious, or perhaps a bit confused about what rights the public has along the shoreline, here's a brief primer on waterfront property law.
New recreational fishing rules have been adopted in Massachusetts to increase the conservation of Atlantic striped bass.
The size of fish that can be recreationally harvested has been further restricted to end overfishing on the resource, while additional fishing gear requirements have been established to address recreational catch and release mortality. The commercial striped bass fishery has been similarly reduced through a quota cut. These changes were recommended by the Division of Marine Fisheries, approved by the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission, and take effect on May 1, 2020.
The Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission has approved DMF recommendations to adjust the recreational possession limit for bluefish. Effective May 1, 2020:
These regulations reduce the recreational bluefish possession limit from 10 fish for all anglers to either 3 or 5 fish depending on fishing mode. This action is consistent with decisions of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to reduce coastwide harvest in 2020 so as to not exceed the recreational harvest limit. Massachusetts’ recreational bluefish season remains open year-round, with no restriction on the size of bluefish that may be retained.
On April 1, 2020, the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission approved DMF recommendations to adjust the commercial fishing limits for black sea bass, summer flounder, and horseshoe crab. These changes are being made in response to recent fishery performance and commercial quota adjustments. The following changes will take effect on May 1 and are described in more detail below.
Black Sea Bass
Massachusetts’ 2020 commercial black sea bass quota is 725,400 pounds (59% increase compared to 2019). To improve access to this quota, directed fishery limits are being increased. The commercial hook and line and pot fisheries will continue to open on July 9 with open fishing days of Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. However, trip limits are being increased by about 30%, with the limits for pot fishermen increasing from 300 pounds to 400 pounds and the limits for commercial anglers increasing from 150 pounds to 200 pounds.
The weir fishery is not subject to a commercial season, fishing days, or trip limits, but is instead afforded a seasonal set-aside. The set-aside is being increased from 15,000 pounds to 24,000 pounds. Any quantity of this set-aside that is unused when the weirs are removed from the water (typically during the late spring or early summer) is rolled back into the commercial quota available to the directed fishery.
Additionally, the incidental catch limits for trawlers have been adjusted to enhance the retention of marketable fish and reduce regulatory discarding. During the springtime small mesh trawl squid fishery (April 23–June 9) permitted trawlers may now retain and land 100 pounds of black sea bass seven days per week; the daily trip limit was previously 50 pounds. Aggregate black sea bass landings by this trawl fishery remain capped at 50,000 pounds. Then during the summertime large mesh mixed trawl fishery (June 10–October 31), trawlers may now retain and land up to 100 pounds of black sea bass during the open fishing days in the commercial summer flounder fishery (Sundays–Thursdays). Previously, trawlers participating in this fishery were allowed to retain up to 150 pounds of black sea bass, but only on open black sea bass days (Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays) during the summertime directed black sea bass fishery (July 9–Quota).
Massachusetts’ 2020 commercial summer flounder quota is 786,399 pounds. This is similar to the 2019 quota of 741,523 pounds, of which only 74% was taken. To improve access to this quota, directed fishery limits for the Period II fishery (April 23–December 31) are being increased.
For the inshore summertime fishery (June 10–October 31), the commercial trawl trip limit is being increased from 300 pounds to 400 pounds and the commercial hook and line trip limit is being increased from 200 pounds to 250 pounds. No changes are being made to the existing open fishing day schedule (Sundays–Thursdays). Additionally, DMF intends to renew its pilot program allowing trawlers to retain and land two consecutive daily limits of summer flounder provided catch from the first day is segregated and sealed for the second days catch. Information regarding enrollment in this pilot program will be available in May.
Then during the offshore fall fishery (November 1–December 31), the closed fishing days of Fridays and Saturdays will be eliminated, allowing the possession and landing of summer flounder seven days per week provided quota remains available. Additionally, the trip limit is being adjusted to allow vessels to possess and land 1,000 pounds of summer flounder if 5% or more of the quota remains available on November 1; if less than 5% of the annual quota remains available, the trip limit will be 500 pounds.
No changes are being made to the limits affecting the springtime fishing period (April 23 - June 9). During this period, fishermen using nets and longlines may retain and land up to 100 pounds per day seven days per week. The retention of summer flounder by fishermen using any other gear type, including handlines and rod and reels, is prohibited.
Horseshoe Crab Limits
Massachusetts’ 2020 horseshoe crab quota will remain at 165,000 crabs. In 2019, this quota was taken on September 1. This quota closure forced trawlers fishing in the summertime large mesh mixed trawl fishery to discard any horseshoe crabs incidentally caught during September and October. To improve the management of this quota, DMF will no longer issue the Letter of Authorization to trawlers without a limited entry horseshoe crab bait permit endorsement allowing them to retain up to 300 crabs when fishing for summer flounder. Instead, DMF has established a 75-crab open access trip limit for trawlers fishing for summer flounder who do not hold the limited entry horseshoe crab bait permit endorsement. No other changes are being made to horseshoe crab bait fishery limits.
Massachusetts’ 2020 commercial striped bass fishery quota is 735,240 pounds. This represents a reduction compared to prior years, consistent with actions taken by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to end overfishing. The Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission approved DMF recommendations to increase the commercial striped bass minimum size limit to 35” total length and adjust the commercial open fishing days to Mondays and Wednesdays. These changes are effective on May 1 and are explained in greater detail below.
No changes are being made to the commercial fishing season or bag limits. The commercial fishery will open on June 24, with a 15-fish possession limit for commercial fishermen fishing under the authority of a boat-based permit and aboard the named vessel, and a 2-fish possession limit for all other commercial fishermen. All possession limits apply to the permit holder or the vessel regardless of the number of trips taken in a day or the number of commercial fishermen onboard a vessel.
The commercial striped bass minimum size limit is being increased from 34” to 35”. This change, along with the adoption of a slot limit in the recreational fishery (28” to less than 35”), will result in the commercial and recreational fisheries being segregated based on the size of fish they are allowed to retain. Commercial fishermen will only be able to retain fish measuring 35” or greater, whereas recreational fishermen will only be able to retain fish measuring 28” to less than 35”. This is expected to improve enforcement and compliance. All size limits are based on total length, which is the straight line length from the anterior most tip of the jaw or snout with the mouth closed to the farthest extremity of the tail with the forks squeezed together.
With this change, DMF is also rescinding two regulatory provisions that addressed the retention and sale of fish by fishermen holding both commercial and recreational fishing permits. First, commercially permitted fishermen fishing recreationally on a closed commercial fishing day during the commercial fishing season are no longer required to clip the right pectoral fin of any fish they retain. Second, dual for-hire and commercial permit holders are no longer authorized to sell unwanted striped bass taken by their for-hire clients during a recreational fishing trip.
The open commercial fishing day schedule is also being adjusted from Mondays and Thursdays to Mondays and Wednesdays. This will help ensure fish is more readily available for weekend markets and may improve utilization of the available quota.
On April 1, 2020, the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission approved DMF recommendations to adjust the commercial menhaden limits and adopt a sand lance possession limit. The following changes will take effect on May 1 and are described in more detail below.
The commercial limited entry menhaden fishery is managed by trip limits that are reduced when a certain percentage of the quota is taken. Prior to this year’s rule change, the trip limit would start at 125,000 pounds, drop to 25,000 pounds at 85% quota use; and 6,000 pounds at 95% quota use. This management structure, specifically the 6,000-pound trip limit at 95% quota use, has prevented the state from harvesting 100% of its available menhaden quota in recent years. To enhance access to the available quota, the 95% quota trigger has been rescinded and the 25,000-pound trip limit will now remain in effect until 100% of the quota is taken.
With the increased likelihood that the state’s commercial fishery will take 100% of the available commercial quota, DMF has also adopted regulations to allow the state to apply to participate in the Episodic Event Set-Aside (EESA), as allowed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s interstate management plan for menhaden. The EESA is a set-aside of 1% of the coastwide quota for the northeast states (ME–NY) if they take their state allocated commercial quota by September 1. If Massachusetts were to participate in the EESA fishery, limited entry commercial menhaden permit holders would be allowed to continue to fish in state-waters under a 120,000-pound trip limit until the cumulative effort of all participating states exhausts the available quota set-aside.
DMF has also amended its allowance for harvest after the state’s allocated quota is used. The incidental catch and small scale fishery allowance allows commercial fishermen to fish at a 6,000-pound trip limit once 100% of the quota is taken, provided any purse seines used do not measure 150 fathoms in length and 8 fathoms in depth or greater. This is consistent with what is now allowed by the interstate management plan. This replaces DMF’s prior bycatch allowance, which was more restrictive and allowed for only an incidental catch of up to 1,000 pounds of menhaden provided the menhaden catch did not exceed 5% the weight of the entire catch.
Lastly, DMF has established that the limited entry commercial menhaden fishery is an owner-operator fishery. This new requirement means the individual named on the commercial permit must be onboard the vessel when any commercial menhaden fishing activity is occurring. This action is designed to enhance compliance and address concerns regarding the activation of latent effort. Also, while a May 1, 2020 control date for the limited entry menhaden permit endorsement was proposed in the draft regulations, it is not being adopted as a final regulation.
Sand lance has been an unregulated species in Massachusetts. The new 200-pound trip limit is designed to prevent the proliferation of an industrial scale bait or reduction fishery on this important nearshore forage species. This limit will continue to accommodate any small-scale commercial or personal bait harvesting activity that may be occurring with beach seines or other similar artisanal gear.
Survey for South of the Vineyard Fishermen
Vineyard Wind and the New England Aquarium Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life are partnering to document the presence of highly migratory species (HMS) and HMS recreational fisheries in the southern New England wind energy lease areas.
Do you fish offshore for highly migratory species (HMS) such as tuna, sharks, marlin, mahi, wahoo, etc, in southern New England from Montauk to Nantucket? To better understand how recreational fishing for HMS may be impacted by offshore wind development, the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium has developed an online survey to quantify the nature and extent of recreational fishing effort for HMS that occurs in this region.
If you’ve fished for HMS in southern New England over the past 5 years and have 2 to 5 minutes to spare, please consider following the below link to take the survey.
Take the Survey at the following link https://www.vineyardwind.com/survey-for-south-of-the-vineyard-fishermen
Radar Analysis Questionnaire
Vineyard Wind is gathering information to be used in a radar analysis looking at the potential effects of offshore wind turbines on radar systems used by fishing vessels. When the radar analysis is complete results will be shared with BOEM, USCG and the report will be available on our website.
In order to get an accurate representation of radar units typically used in different fishing fleets we are asking fishermen to provide information about the units they have on board. Please answer the questions at the link below. If you don’t have all the information, just the make and model of the radar unit will be helpful. Alternatively, you can download the questionnaire here or text/email pictures of your radar equipment to me if that’s easier. https://www.vineyardwind.com/radarquestionnaire
Vineyard Wind is well underway in developing the nation's first utility-scale offshore wind energy project over 15 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. The project will generate clean, renewable, cost-competitive energy for over 400,000 homes and businesses across the Commonwealth, while reducing carbon emissions by over 1.6 million tons per year.
New England is shifting to clean, competitively-priced energy, and Massachusetts state law seeks to have 3,200 MW of offshore wind providing electricity to the Commonwealth by 2035, which could represent over 20% of electricity consumed in the state. Vineyard Wind is an important part of that goal, and will make a significant contribution to the Commonwealth’s aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while growing our economy and enhancing energy security and reliability.
July 23, 2019 – The Massachusetts Legislature has enacted bi-partisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Julian Cyr (D – Truro) and Rep. William L. Crocker (R – Barnstable) authorizing the Barnstable Town Council to grant an easement for a portion of Covell’s Beach that will allow for construction of the interconnection between Vineyard Wind, the United States’ first large-scale wind farm, and the New England power grid.
The legislative vote follows a Host Community Agreement (HCA) between the Town of Barnstable and Vineyard Wind, which was unanimously supported by the Barnstable Town Council in October 2018. The HCA includes annual payments to the Town of at least $1.534 million each year in combined property taxes and host community payments, totaling a guaranteed $16 million in Host Community Payments. The Town Council has dedicated those resources to municipal water protection efforts.
The HCA also includes $80,000 for reconstruction of a bathhouse at Covell’s Beach, repaving of an aged parking lot at the beach, barring construction between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and collaboration on design features. The company and the town are working in close collaboration to aid the Town’s sewer needs by co-locating sewer infrastructure in conjunction with Vineyard Wind construction, which will save costs to the town and reduce the need for future road openings. Read more https://www.vineyardwind.com/press-releases/2019/7/22/project-update-massachusetts-legislature-enacts-bipartisan-legislation-to-advance-vineyard-wind-projectnbsp
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has implemented two new striped bass conservation regulations aimed at reducing release mortality (see PDF below for official advisory) :
The Sportfish Angler Data Collection Team (SADCT) program is a group of volunteer anglers collecting biological samples of selected recreational fish species in Massachusetts marine waters. SADCT is part of an Atlantic coast-wide effort to manage and conserve recreationally targeted species. Information gathered through SADCT is used by the Division of Marine Fisheries and provided to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to support conservation and sustainability efforts. See PDFs below to find out more about joining the team.
SADCT originally began in 2002 with anglers taking data from their striped bass catches. In 2013, three more species were added to the program: scup, black sea bass, and fluke. https://www.mass.gov/service-details/sportfish-angler-data-collection-team
Anglers joining SADCT follow simple protocols for gathering data on striped bass, fluke (summer flounder), scup, and black sea bass. Participants measure fish length, collect scale samples from each fish caught, and note whether it is kept or released. Scales are used to determine the age of the fish by counting growth rings, much like the aging technique for trees. See PDF below for sampling procedures.
In 2018 approximately 1,900 samples were collected by SADCT volunteers. Of those 1,900 samples 1,600 samples were from striped bass. Black sea bass, fluke, and scup accounted for the remaining 300 samples.
See PDF below for Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries - Sportfish Angler Data Collection Team 2018 Report.
Fishing weather forecasts around Cape Cod:
Current trout fishing news:
Current striper fishing news:
General fishing and boating news:
Learn about the recreational saltwater fishing regulations by looking at the link below. The MA regulations site was updated as of August 22, 2018. These regulations apply to MA state-waters only.
The Objectives of this Association are to:
Advisories and News Downloads