The future of our fishery by Lou Caruso

By Lou Caruso

The future of our fishery

First off let me state, I am not one of those guys that is insanely adamant about releasing every fish caught. I keep an occasional fish for the table as my family all enjoy a meal of fresh striped bass. This has more to do with the fish we are taking.

I recently took a trip to Cape Cod Canal. My wife bought me a bike for Christmas from Canal Bicycles in Bourne, Mass forcing my hand. I’m always saying I want to try new places but never seem to find the time. She made sure I would go. At 63 years old I’m still learning and for me this is a whole new arena…

I went for a few reasons, first being I’m trying to break my personal best, second access is much easier than doing the south side walk in Montauk and third this all being new to me has renewed my vigor in chasing striped bass..

As most of you know, there are some really big fish up at the canal. Just look at Facebook or Instagram and every- body and his brother is holding up a 30 pounder from there.….

What I saw kind of made me sick and concerned. The amount of 30-40 pound fish being kept is amazing. I saw bike after bike going by with these huge fish strapped to the back. Monday and Thursday are Commercial Days where anyone with a commercial license can keep 2 fish. The last day I was there which was not a commercial day, I counted in 1 parking area over 50 fish taken out of there. Many over 30 pounds. That is one location over a 7 mile stretch with 2 sides of parking areas.

My concern is there are 2 pods of big fish right now. One in the canal and one off Montauk. Both of these pods of fish are getting hammered….. If we continue to take all of the prime breeders out of the gene pool a few things will happen. First, the generations of fish following may not be a big as these bass today as breeders will be smaller and smaller. Second, if you look back at the collapse, just before it occurred most of the fish being caught were over 30 pound cows.

Our biomass of big fish is dwindling very quickly. It’s up to us to be responsible stewards of this fishery. If you can, release the monsters and keep a nice 10-15 pound fish. They taste better and will give those 30-40 pounders a chance.

Thanks for letting me vent,

Lou CarusoBike.


31 comments on “The future of our fishery by Lou Caruso

    1. Mohamed nabulsi

      It should be regulated minimum28 inches and max
      Length of 36 inches
      Above that it must be released
      And not a keeper

  1. dave whitney

    Social media put a bullseye on that place. Way too many guys fishing for meat and a picture. Striped bass will be a thing of the past soon!

  2. AM

    I fish the Canal weekly and its like that every….single….day….probably worse to be honest…

    More education work needs to be done.

    Wouldn’t it be great if local tackle shops (Red Top, Canal B&T, Charlies, the Goose, Black Eel, etc.) and plug builders organized under a campaign “Breeder’s ain’t keepers!”, held a couple events down on the Canal each season (with food and beer!), worked with the Army Corps around signage to inform people to protect the resource (civic engagement), etc. Better yet what if “local champions” (looking at all you old retired salts! you got the time!) took it upon themselves to spend time down the Canal talking with people about the issue weekly?

    Maybe none of that will work…maybe it all needs to start with a cool t-shirt design….

    1. zhromin Post author

      I agree with you that more needs to be done to raise awareness BUT i also think ATTITUDES toward “keep as many as legally can” need to change…Zeno

    2. Chuck Gricus

      It would be in the fishing tackle sector’s best interest to invest in such a program cuz when the fish are gone, it’s over…

  3. Sy Sypraseuth

    Thanks for trying to spread the word LOU!! The canal is my second home and I also see the carnage every moontide, I am no way saying release all the fish you catch but at some point something has to be done. I’m all for keeping a catch to eat but their is no need to be there Day in and day out keeping 30/40pounders and think this fishery has a chance. Out of the 50/60 fish I caught this year there most being in the high 20’s up to 40 pounds I only kept 2 fish and both being unreleaseable and wouldn’t of made it. Wake up people stripers don’t taste that good anyways compared to fluke and black sea bass. Save the fishery before it’s too late

    1. Albacized

      Screw that. I hate going for fluke and sea bass because going out on a boat is expensive and fluke just don’t fight much. All I keep nowadays is scup and albies. Albies are great if you bleed them, put them on ice, take the guts out if they’re in there for longer than a few hours, loin them, and cut the nasty dark flesh. They’re one of the most abundant tunas in the world and practically as fecund, fast-growing, and renewable as mahi. They’re great raw and taste almost like bluefin sashimi IMHO . . . but leave them in the open without treating them for less than an hour and all you’ve got is cat food, though it wouldn’t surprise me if that were to happen to just about any other specie of tuna in not iced properly.

      As for scup, I also find them great eaten raw as sashimi and I have a system that involves ultralight freshwater gear and 6 lb test line meant for crappie and panfish used from rocky shores but I have no plans writing about it here. For now it’s a secret, but I want to get in contact with On The Water magazine to write an article about it soon.

  4. Russell Paoline

    Truer words have never been spoken, I really hope surfcasters realize the ripple effects of their actions, I’ve seen times when stripers couldn’t be found, and they were sad times indeed.

  5. C.C

    My Father and I were just discussing this yesterday. It’s easy to see commercial fishing for Striped Bass needs to stop. Now I hate taking away someone’s way of supporting his/her family but it’s easy to see that Striped Bass are in decline. My Dad has been a striped bass addict since the 60’s and he has seen the population seesaw year to year, but the recent lack of bigger fish has him concerned. We all like to keep a fish occassionally, I love a fillet on the grill. Would closing commercial season, raising the size limit to 36 inches , and allowing only 10 fish a season with each keeper caught the angler attached a tag and reported it harvested to DEEP. be too much to ask… I personally have no interest in keeping 10 fish , 1 or 2 a season is way more than enough. I just feel that something needs to be done before a 30lb fish becomes a fish of a lifetime. As fisherman that care about the fishery we all need to email our Congressman and Senator and continue to email them until something gets done and before it’s too late. Great post Lou!! THANKS!

  6. ovenrat

    maybe I’ll send this link to ASMFC…..maybe they’ll put down their beers and joints and address the obviously dwindling striper stocks.
    nah, I’ll have a better chance with lottery tickets and the Mega Millions or Power Ball 🙁
    anybody have spare rolling papers?, I’d like to donate them to Striped Bass Advisory Panel members , keep them comfy

  7. Tim from Plymouh

    Great post! I am local as well and fish the ditch 2-3 x a week! Limits to be adjusted and not just the minimum but there should be a max length as well – maybe 32- 38 inches? (Currently limit is one fish over 28 inches a day)

    Moreover, more education needs to be done on how to properly revive and release a fish. I see too many fish being kept out of the water way too long, only be tossed like a football back in. There were a lot of fish floating by me belly up the other morning. Which is very unfortunate.

    I was happy to see the EP crack down on some poachers this week (taking more than their limit of one fish) but I suspect they are stretched with resources and could use more help. Fines could always be increased as well.

    Thanks for helping bring this issue to the forefront. There is a group of locals attempting address the revive and release issue at a grass roots level with some help from media outlets, like this website. Hoping to make a difference so my 13 year old can take his son someday to catch his first keeper at the ditch. He scored his first (33 inches) this past May.

  8. cakes

    Education isn’t the answer. Most of those guys keeping big fish know the ramifications. The fact that you can buy a commercial licence for under 100$ and harvest fish for money is the problem. Last year the price for striper was higher than tuna. Guys were catching fish worth over 300$. Who’s gonna pass that up?

  9. Gilly

    Most will say that I’m being incredibly over-dramatic, but I’ve said it for years….and in the not so-far future, many more die-hard fishermen will most likely agree…..The INTERNET has ruined Striper-Fishing. As much as we love everything fishing and as much as we’ve learned from each other via social networking, it has seriously impacted this fishery. What most didn’t realize, was that over the years as the die-hard fishermen were forming new relationships, sharing stories, tactics, tackle-options and pictures, EVERYONE else was watching too….dissecting posts, pictures, etc…loudly sharing their success stories with the world-wide-web.
    “Everyone” isn’t a certain ethnic group nor is it restricted to certain immigrant groups…’s EVERYONE…American born and raised included. The Canal, as Lou wrote about….is the ideal place to simply slow-ride the service road and see for yourself, that every color of the human race is guilty in one way or another. The internet has made it easy for EVERYONE and anyone to find the fish, what’s working to catch them and when. The Canal has given them one of, if not the easiest place to fish as of recent years (mainly because it’s become a migratory route for a certain bio-mass…it hasn’t always been “THIS GOOD, or rather EASY).
    Those of us who have been at it long enough, KNOW that sooner or later, the bio-mass that has somehow included the ditch as their right of passage to points facing north…will come to an end. It won’t be over-fishing that stops them from using the Canal…it may be forage routes, it may be water-temps versus migration timing, it may be a combination of many things…but someday the Canal will return to long nights of hard-jigging…long mornings of cast after cast for those few hefty scale-benders…and the return of the skeleton crew who fished that windy snake long before the internet unknowingly opened its gates without asking.

    We reap what we sow.

    What’s the fix? Increased bag limits? Implementing new regulations? Changing commercial status? Further minimizing access?

    Nah, the “fix” is much smarter and non-negotiable than that………the fix is mother nature. Once again, whether we like it or not…..She will fix this, just like an angry mother would discipline her spoiled child by taking away their favorite toy. Those of us who truly understand the politics involved already know….it’s going to crash, maybe not as hard as last time…maybe worse?

    Were the relationships created worth it? For some yes….and that’s ok. Most people don’t like the solitude of fishing alone or with that one other person. Some (especially at the Canal) would much rather have that “group” feeling….that feeling of “even if I don’t catch any fish, I’ll still see and chat with a bunch of other fishermen just like me”…and that’s ok too. We’re all within our rights (ruling out the poachers of course)….We just don’t realize what that all cost us moving forward.

    “Ruined” is a strong word….I realize that, but at what point does one determine something’s worth? Was the internet worth the comradeships formed? Was it worth how its impacted the fishery? Can there be a justifiable balance? Before even thinking of how you’re going to answer that question….remember one very important factor that I’ve neglected to mention in this entire post, the monetarial orgy that’s also been taking place. Those chasing that tail will be the first ones to say I’m crazy. But know one thing, unlike some… I have no angle in this forum…I’m not running charters, not turning plugs for profit, not financially benefiting from anything fishing…but today is Sunday, a day to give thanks…not a day to make enemies. We’ll save that discussion for another time.

    God bless people…enjoy your day!


  10. Frank G

    Hey Lou, I was there with you. The guy with the gopro recording Jacob at 20. I felt exactly the same way as you and like you is all new for me. I met another guy whos an admin on fb page “Cape Cod Fishing n Surfcasting” (jason) very nice guy and very helpful, i told him the same thing that i was having a hard time seeing all these big fish killed, i came home and it was still bothering me so i joined the fb group and posted this on Schmidt’s post. Jul 17, 2018 1:56am
    “i only keep a striped bass to eat if it does not revive and it does happen now and then. to kill a fish that has a lot of life left in it just seems self dooming to a great fishing species. if it wants to go let it. if it don’t, enjoy”.
    I also just read a very well written book by Eddie Doherty “Seven Miles After Sundown” he talks about tagged stripers being recorded through the canal. 62% of fish migrating north use the canal but only 30% return migrating south through the canal and gives his theory why. My theory is that the 32% that does not return migrating south in the fall has been killed in the canal. I have never seen so many striped bass over 40″ lying side by side on the service road lined up like trophy’s in a display case. something needs to be done between this, party boats and trawlers netting bunker and killing whatever other fish is in its path that is chasing the bunker, its amazing to me how these fish ever even reach 40 inches at 13 years old.
    I do not think that any other fish will draw the magnitude of fisherman who pursue it that the Striped Bass does. what will all the Rod,Reel, Lure and gear manufacturers who supply these fisherman do when this fish is gone? never mind the hotels, restaurants and tackle shops that host these traveled to locations. I know im not traveling 5 hours to go catch blue fish which btw seems to be on a decline also. its time to get these big $ companies on board pushing for stricter laws and heavier enforcement before we are all out of business .

  11. Orlando

    I have been saying this for a few years now. Information is easily attainable and the gear we use is vastly improved. Better rods, better reels, better line and a smorgasbord of lures available. Yet the regulations do not chamge? Cant compare the anglers from today to even 10 years ago. The culture needs to change and that starts with education of our fishery. Tackle shops should remove hook hangers to hang fish, that is a old school method of advertising. Think about it, if you make profit off a fishery wouldnt you encourage people to protect it? I know I do! On the West Coast I make a free custom plug for those that catch & release a 32”+ fish, just so they can see it’s a good thing to do.

    1. Frank G

      every lure, reel and rod manufacturer and tackle shop owner should take a lesson from you orlando great idea.

  12. brichards

    I used to preface my realistic and cautionary opinions with “not to be doom and gloom” or “I don’t think the sky is falling”

    I think I’m done with that. I hate to say it. I really do, but the writing is on the wall at this point. Yearly, the fishing does not improve, in fact, it gets worse, and where there are fish, people continue to “harvest” right a long.

    Surf fishing for striped bass was a major part of my life for most of my life and here I am at a crossroads seriously looking into getting into other kinds of fishing to essentially replace it. Every time I gear up with the big plugs, the live and rigged eels, and the 11 footer, it’s like I -hope- something happens that’s like how it used to happen, but it doesn’t. At least not most of the time. And at least not at an interval where it feels like it’s worth it.

    And honestly, when I read people still wax poetically about surfcasting, I can’t help but feel they have a bit of their head and heart in the past.

    Psychologically, fishing acts on what’s called a “variable ratio of reinforcement.” What that means, is that the “pay off” of effort could happen at any time, and that prompts you to keep trying. It’s the same reinforcement ratio as gambling, and both are addictive for the same reason. But, if the “reward” happens -too- infrequently, instead of being addicting, the subject just looses interest. That’s where I’ve gotten. At least on bigger fish. Is one pay off per dozens of skunkings worth it? Depends on your objectives, but I can tell you this, it’s not fun.

    Here’s to schoolies and albies.

  13. Vinny Simmarano

    Thanks Lou! This was much needed from someone like yourself! I am a biology teacher in Worcester, MA, I summer on the Cape, fish the Canal regularly, and am a huge fan of Surfcaster’s Journal, your work, and Zeno’s work. Here’s some biology/science to back up your observations! Please read!!!

  14. Chris

    I think it’s easy to say Big Bass are in decline , seems like we all are experiencing the same thing. But another thing that is troubling to me is the lack of numbers of big Bluefish. Over here on the CT side of the the sound ,big Blues are none existant. I’ll admit that I enjoy a 15lb slammer taking drag on a hot summer night when big Bass were not biting. Those days seem to be long gone as well. It’s been alot of years since I’ve caught multiple Blues over 12lbs. I hope those who make the limits rethink the 10 fish limit soon before it’s too late.

  15. Ron Mattson Sr

    Some years ago we were discussing the Striped Bass problems on the East Coast on this blog. Then as now most have opinions for a remedy. History has shown how a fishing group GCA solved the fish problems on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Fishing from Florida to Texas is now fabulous!. Until we as a group are ready to come together as one nothing will change. See you again in 2028 and the same problems will exist.

  16. Stephen J Sawicki Jr

    It was great you were able to finally fish the ditch! I enjoyed seeing you there and chatting about rod building. I’m old enough to remember the 70’s and 80’s, when there weren’t many stripers around.Enjoyed cod fishing and have watched that fishery collapse with the help of government oversight and politics. Hope something positive is accomplished so it never happens with Striped Bass.

  17. Andy

    Maybe they should make a slot size for keeper Stripers like they have for keeper Snook down in Florida. They have not only a minimum size but a maximum size too, it’s 28 trough 32 inches. Also it’s illegal to sell a Snook. That’s why you’ll never see Snook in restaurants or stores. Copying something similar to Florida’s Snook regulations would really go a long way protecting our Striper population.

  18. Joseph P GaNun

    Hi Lou
    Nice bike but I’m guessing it will be seen cruising the lots in Montauk in the future.
    The story gets sadder every year and it’s all been said above. I was surprised that there is a special “commercial days” program. I always thought RS’s 1@32 was a great starting point back in 2013 but it seems that would not be strong enough now. To me it seems like a slot is needed for several years to keep the breeders in the water and let some fish grow up. One fish in possession per day also needs a huge cutback. Tags anyone ?

  19. Rob l

    Sadly it’s not going to change. Fact is it’s human nature, most people only care for themselves. Lots of ignorant slobs out there.


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