Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 6, 2010

Stripers arrive in Merrimack River slightly ahead of schedule
By Peter Prybot

PLUM ISLAND — Fishermen rejoice. The stripers have arrived.

According to fishing reports posted on Surfland Bait and Tackle's Web site, fishermen on Plum Island in recent days have been catching "schoolies" — the term for smaller fish under 28 inches long that must be thrown back.

Local striper hunter Don Lappin caught a number of fish from the beach on Monday, according to the posts, the biggest measuring 26 inches.

Each year, the fish migrate north from their winter home in and around Chesapeake Bay. The return of the striped bass in great numbers by regulating the size of fish that can be kept all along the Atlantic seaboard has been lauded as one of the most successful fishery management efforts ever undertaken.

In an effort to increase data on the recreational striper catch, fishermen this year must obtain a federal permit, at no cost. Fees may be implemented as soon as next year as Massachusetts prepares its own licensing system to comply with new federal regulations.

The arrival of the bass to local waters is a bit earlier than in recent years. Last year, the first striper landed locally was caught on May 8 when Bob Smith caught a 34-inch keeper on his first cast into the Parker River. In 2008, the first striper off Plum Island was reported on May 6.

Though there are no reports of "keepers" just yet along the North Shore, a Gloucester fisherman reported catching a 271/2-inch fish last Friday, believed to be the first striper of the year on Cape Ann, an annual foreshadow to their arrival in the Merrimack River.

Matt Tallgrass, Cape Seafood Inc.'s logistics manager, has hooked and landed the fish from the banks of the Annisquam River.

"I haven't heard of anyone else catching a striper yet," said Tallgrass, a veteran recreational bass fisherman, who fishes exclusively from the shore and landed the striper Friday around 10:05 p.m.

That night, he said, "I chummed with herring, and the fish bit on a chunk of herring."

Unfortunately for Tallgrass, the fish's overall length was 271/2 inches, just a half-inch below the legal size.

"It was so close to being a keeper," he said.

This bass, Tallgrass said, "lived to swim another day."

"Last year, I got my first fish in June," he said. "It was so exciting to see that big a fish so early."

— Staff writer Will Courtney contributed to this report.

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