While New York wallows behind all of the other states in the Northeast when it comes to striped bass management, it is encouraging to see that Massachusetts is making an effort to step up its game when it comes to managing this important sportfish. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the only other states in the Northeast that have commercial fisheries for striped bass. Both are rod and reel only, and Rhode Island also allows a limited trap fishery. New York is the only state that allows the gillnetting of striped bass.
Recently, two Massachusetts legislators, Rep. Walter Timilty (D-Milton) and Rep. Thomas Stanley (D-Waltham), filed a set of proposals which, if passed, would reduce and eventually eliminate commercial rod-and-reel fishing for striped bass in Massachusetts as well as increase the fines for violators of new regulations.
Mr. Stanley’s first proposal (Bill H. 465) is to form, “… a special commission (including members of the General Court) relative to the status of wild striped bass in the Commonwealth. The commission shall examine and assess the impact that commercial harvesting and recreational fishing have on the population and viability of wild striped bass in the Commonwealth, the economic value of the recreational striped bass fishery in terms of tax revenue and jobs, and state and local tax revenue loss due to the decline of the recreational fishery.”
In Mr. Stanley’s second bill (Bill H. 466), he proposes that, “Commercial harvesting and sale of wild striped bass shall be permitted for individuals owning commercial licenses on December 31, 2012 who can historically demonstrate over the preceding 5 years that they have averaged an annual landing and sale of more than 1,000 pounds of striped bass based on records made available to the Massachusetts Division of Marine fisheries. Notwithstanding any special or general law to the contrary, the issuing of commercial striped bass licenses shall cease as of January 1, 2025.”
It goes on to address poaching and black market sales of striped bass by stating, “Whoever violates any rules or regulations made pursuant to this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $200 for each fish taken or possessed for the first violation, five hundred dollars for each fish taken or possessed for the second violation and for each subsequent violation shall be fined one thousand dollars for each fish taken or possessed or imprisoned not more than sixty days or both. No part of any fine imposed for the taking or possession of any striped bass in violation of any such regulation shall be remitted.”
Passage of these bills will not be easy. The Bay State’s liberal requirements for a commercial striped bass license, which allow residents or non-residents to commercially harvest striped bass, have essentially given would-be recreational fishermen the ability to sell stripers. Residents can purchase a Rod & Reel License for $35 and an Individual License for $100. The non-resident fees are $100 and $130. These licenses allow a two fish daily limit, which doesn’t sound like much, but when one 30-pound fish can bring $150 at the marketplace, the attraction of having a license is hard for some people to resist. It may also be hard for some of these otherwise recreational anglers to support these bills.