Maybe Frank Genovas, the owner of Francesco’s Pizzeria in Babylon Village, was experimenting with a new topping for his fresh tomato pies.
How does a large striped bass pizza sound?
Okay, maybe not, but whatever he was up to, Genovas, 53, faces up to $20,000 in fines after New York officials discovered three illegally caught striped bass and a few pounds of frozen filets in his restaurant last week.
Whatever the poached stripers are being used for (poaching?), the problem of illegal striped bass fishing is just one part — and a very tiny part at that — of the fish’s ongoing population problem.
Last week, the Atlantic States Marine Fishing Commission reported that female spawning biomass for Atlantic striped bass, which has been declining since 2004, was still well below the target estimates, which are established at 128 million pounds.
This can mean only one thing: Sometime this winter, the ASMFC’s technical committee will be looking into ways to increase the striper biomass and thus its spawning success. That can only mean one thing: Further restrictions will be coming down the pike on the size and numbers of striped bass that can be taken both recreationally and commercially.
As has been stated in this column before, we hope the biologists, rather than just increasing the minimum size of allowable recreational catches, consider the obvious step of moving to a slot limit that would allow anglers to kill one or two stripers between, say, 22 and 27 inches per trip, thus allowing the big breeder cows to continue producing offspring.
As almost anyone who made serious attempts to fish for stripers in Long Island Sound this season can attest, the numbers and sizes of bass were down across the board. While schoolies were available, keeper were hard to come by. At least one area striped bass fishing club has so far been unable to name a leader in its annual bass fishing competition because all the stripers weighed in have not met the minimum established for the competition.
As for commercial striper fishing, it is only an issue in Massachusetts and North Carolina. In the Bay State, yet another attempt is underway in the state legislature to limit commercial striped bass fishing. In this one, only people who can prove they have landed more than 1,000 pounds of bass for the past five consecutive seasons would be granted new licenses. We wish the supporters well.
There is some good news regarding the fecundity of striped bass. The 2011 spawn was pretty good compared to other years. Those young fish will reach maturity in 2016 and 2017 so the reductions in available stripers should not be felt until after those years.
Late last week, I received a report that a pair of anglers fishing off Fayerweather Light came across a huge school of bass feeding on top. The fish took just about every lure in the angler’s box. When it was over, more that 100 bass had been caught and, thankfully, released.
But then, to the east, charter captains fishing out of the traditional striper heaven of Block Island are complaining that they have had one of their worst seasons in memory. One skipper said his striper catch was off 90 percent this season. Others have routinely told clients they cannot guarantee they will land a striper on their trip.
Also on the positive side, the blackfish fishing is rated generally excellent in the usual areas with rocky or shelled bottoms. Meanwhile, with water temperatures falling into the mid 50s, bluefish should soon be departing the Sound. This week could be the last shot at taking a blue in 2013.