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: Interesting CCA email

08-13-2002, 07:44 AM
Saw a few names I recognized on an email I received yesterday re: the following story. Thought others might find this interesting, I beleive it was originally posted on

Commercial Striper Trip: lessons learned
Fishing Report Posted 8/5/02
adam bolonsky

We have half a ton of striped bass on board, two more stripers to land before by law before we have to quit. The question now is how to get in touch with the dealer at the state fish pier when we land. After we offload our catch, stack the fish in totes, weigh the fish, and subtract the totes' weight, the buyer will call his office to begin the price negotiations between his boss and the captain.

Market price for striper at the seafood display auction the day before was $1.80 a pound; but in car-dealer fashion, the auction by administrative edict kept twenty cents of that price for itself as "handling charges", effectively dropping the boat's payout by the same amount. This buyer, by cutting out the middleman and buying from us direct, will pay slightly less than market, but won't keep any withhold, thus increasing the boat's net.

Our fish are stored on the boat according to a system with no more order to it than what will make the fish fit. A several-hundred pound mixture of bluefish and stripers are stored on ice in the hold belowdecks. Two totes aft of the cabin door, meanwhile, hold a couple hundred pounds of juvenile snapper bluefish. Two more enormous coolers midships hold several hundred pounds of stripers in a brine concocted of shaved ice, saltwater, and agricultural salt. A tuna dealer's trick, brine allows the aggregate temperature of ice and water and salt and fish to fall lower than water and ice and fish alone.

The floorboards are awash in deckers. Deckers are the fish commercials leave on deck in a old tuna blankets for no other reason than there being no room anywhere to put them. Deckers are of two types. One type is the quota-trip decker, when the boat has no other room left.

The other is the hurry-up decker, or fish left on the floorboards because fish have come up over the rail so fast and thick there hasn't been time to do anything else other than unhook them, drop them on the floor, rebait , and get the hooks back into the water.

Hurryup deckers create pandemonium and activate the adrenaline. They make the angler's nerves twitch. They bring chaos to the boat. Quota-trip deckers are not chaotic. They are business. They are the fish that complete a trip. We were hit by two rounds of hurryup deckers just after midnight.

We haul anchor. It's half-past four in the morning. We've fished since 7:00 the night before. The half ton of striped bass we've caught and stored on board average twenty-five pounds each; length, forty inches or more. We are three-quarters of a mile offshore, southeast of Eastern Point, Gloucester, near the groaner, or roughly 300 yards off the latitude and longitude numbers we fished the night before.

I am not giving away any secrets by revealing our location and the hours we fished. Indeed, all night on the surrounding square miles of water bobbed thirty other commercial striper boats, including two clumsy-looking, hastily-converted wooden cabin cruisers a gang of hard-luck cases from waters south had trailered up to Gloucester for the same reason we motored out here: to fish on hearsay waters that have ably proven their worth. We chummed herring cut into half-inch chunks, used for bait whole herring hooked through the eyes on a single hook with four-ounce bank sinkers tied onto the line about three feet above the hook. The wire leader is 150-pound test; the swivels, 75-pound test. Any discussion of the striper being hook-shy seems ridiculous: our wire leaders are thick enough to wire shut the door of a truck.

The sun begins to pinken the eastern horizon. After we were hit by the first round of hurry-up deckers around midnight, we tapped into a second school around 1:00 a.m.Two hours later, we siphoned a few stripers from a third school of fish. Then, at 4:00 a.m., the 40-inch hurry-up deckers and quota-deckers began to hammer us so hard taking fish felt like trying to block the flow of water from an open fire hydrant with a plastic bucket.

The captain fished the entire night barefoot. Holding one short and thick boat rod in one hand, a more supple spincasting rod in the other, he had stood splayfooted with both rods bent in an arc over the water, the butt of each rod jammed against either hip. Usually he had 40" striped bass hooked on both rods, and kept shouting at his girlfriend, a crewmember far tougher than I am, to take one of the rods NOW and guide it around the stern before the fish tangled up. He gaffed the fish on board with a short gaff with a horizontal handle that fit across his palm, creating a deadly fulcrum which he swung into the fish's gill plates with a loud "thock!"

Several times I found myself alternately landing 43-inch stripers or wielding an oversized fillet knife in my hand, a steel leader attached to a hook in a sandshark's mouth in the other. Also known as spiny dogfish, sandshark are a toothless wonder of a three-foot long, brown-hued fish with the body of a hammerhead and the comical face of a happy schnauser. The fish's caudal and dorsal fin are weapons. Jutting up from dorsal and caudal fin, two long spines --- sharp horns, actually --- stand out from the back and tail of the fish as abrupt and
terrible-looking as grossly-oversized rosebush thorns. The length of a grotesquely-sharpened carpenter's nail-set, the puncture wounds they leave are deep and immediate.

Removing my hooks from my sandsharks' mouths in humane fashion required that I hold down the fishes' tails and heads underfoot. Having immobilized the fish thus, I had to choose then whether to remove the hook from the fish with the fish intact or to kill the fish by cutting off the head.

Most anglers have none of the live removal method. They simply hack off the sandshark's head and toss the body overboard before twisting he hook from the fish's head. Only a couple times had I debated how to deal with the sandsharks I landed. I gathered brutality enough to use the faster, uglier method more often as the night progressed, and can't say I regret it.

The captain and his girlfriend land two more enormous stripers. With a tremendous crash, they gaff the fish on deck. These are the last of the quota-trip deckers , bringing us to forty fish. These won't get slid aside somewhere on the floorboards. Kathy places them on ice on the tuna blanket. It's time to stow the gear.

We return to the dock at 5:00 am, eleven or so hours after I met the captain to pull the boat together from the previous night's trip and to crimp together the couple dozen wire leaders. My pay for this trip will be a 45" striper, a fish so large the only place I will be able to ice and rinse it at home before I fillet it is the bathtub. For this I will catch hell from my girlfriend.

Our final task is to offload our remaining bait onto a boat whose crew has not yet met its quota. Their boat is an open lobster skiff, their 28 stripers fanned out around their boat like the petals of a sunflower. Crew and captain have strung their catch through the gills and allowed the fish to float around the boat. We land our fish at the pier long before they land theirs. By then, the boat price for striped bass has shifted.

By the time you read this, the 978 pounds of striped bass and 200-odd pounds of bluefish we caught from this boat will have been cleaned, scaled, filleted, and put under glass at the Captain Marden's retail fish markets in the Boston area. Which means that if you live in the West Newton or Wellesley areas and eat bluefish or striped bass sometime this week or weekend, chances are you will be cooking striped bass or bluefish I either hooked or iced on this boat or helped offload at Gloucester's state fish pier.

The machine-like efficiency of a commercial striper trip has a lot to teach a recreational angler. One lesson is to striper fish at night, if you can. A second is to chum, chum, chum, and then chum again. The last, and most important, is to consider whether big-striper fishing is really a tricky art and science requiring fancy gear. Catching big fish is really a rather simple matter: fish deep and use whole herring on a single hook. Other than a depthsounder, in other words, it's a matter of crude, simple gear. ##

08-13-2002, 07:54 AM
Doesn't teach me a thing.

08-13-2002, 10:04 AM
I think the purpose was the underlying point of the efficiency of the commercials.

Personally, I think the efficiency is a good thing. They know what they're doing & how much they can take.

Kind of a brutal example.

08-13-2002, 11:43 AM
Yes...I agree...but to try and teach us how recreational fisherman should fish is a bit rediculious on their part... We can catch 40 inch fish during the day and on the flats.... we can release dogfish without stomping on them instead of cutting their heads off. Finally...why do we need to be efficient... they should be, it's their business...we do it for fun not profit and I think most of us use care in releasing fish... afterall we don't have 20 fish at a time to think of. I don't think we need to Chum,Chum Chum. Sounds like there is no fun in Commercial fishing. My comments are addressed to the writer of the thread...not you Jeff ..obviously. Thanks for posting it, I have been fairly mellow today and I needed a jolt.

08-13-2002, 12:09 PM
At least we found out where are the big fish have been hiding this summer. :(

On a serious note, I enjoy eating fish. I enjoy eating beef. I enjoy eating other things that have a horribly machine-like quality to their demise. I agree with both of you, Striblue and Roop. That is the Commercial Fisherman's get me fish and to get it to me as fresh as possible. Sounds like this boat did it, the other boat is another story.
I don't think as recreational fisherman we can take much from this, unless, as recreational fisherman, we are looking for dinner. I now know that if I don't want to spend the money at the market, I can go chumming and deep lining at 3 in the morning off of Gloucester and get dinner. That's not why I fish though. I fish for the beautiful sunrise, the smell of the salt air, the comradarie of others, the solitude at times, etc. The challenge of hooking and landing the striper is almost icing on the cake. A fishless day in paradise beats most days anywhere else.


08-13-2002, 05:06 PM
Can someone tell me how to tie a "chum" fly?:hehe:


08-13-2002, 06:46 PM
Large commercial harvest, easy for them to catch stripers....
hearing on increasing the commercial limit... :rolleyes:

anyone, anyone...
Bueller, anyone...:confused:

Did anyone attend the hearing at Mass Maritime Monday night?

08-13-2002, 08:11 PM
Excuse me, but...didn't those guys start out buffalo hunting?!
...And "they" won't be happy until all the breeders are in the box and the State (taxpayers) is paying them not to fish because there are no more fish to catch?!