EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 11, 2013

Right on schedule, stripers are here

PLUM ISLAND — Kay Moulton has uttered those two words that are sweet music to the ears of every striped bass fisherman.

“They’re here.”

And she uttered a few more musical words as well.

“And there’s a lot of them.”

The first official “keeper” sized fish of the season was brought into Kay’s Surfland on Plum Island Thursday. A keeper is a fish that is at least 28 inches long, the minimum size that can be taken in Massachusetts.

Mother’s Day is the traditional start of the striped bass season in the local area. The popular gamefish follow hot on the tails of smaller baitfish, such as shad and herring, as they head north up the coast on their annual migration. The striper season in local waters typically lasts from mid May to about mid June; the stripers head to northern waters during the hottest months of the summer, then in the fall blitz through on their way south.

The keeper fish was caught off Plum Island Point, one of 12 fish hauled in by three fishermen, said Moulton, who has been at the helm of Plum Island’s iconic bait and tackle shop for over 50 years. Fishermen have been bringing their keepers into her store since 1962 to get their picture taken and their name and catch recorded for posterity. They are added to a big photo collage that has long been a wall of fame for local fishermen.

Moulton said striped bass were also being found at one of the most popular fishing spots in the Merrimack River, Deer Island in Amesbury. Fish are also being found in numbers in the Haverhill stretch of the Merrimack, because the waters above it are too shallow for the fish to run right now.

Schools of baitfish have been spotted moving along the local coast and up rivers for the past couple weeks. A two-hundred-yard long school of baitfish, with dozens of birds furiously diving into it, could be seen yesterday in the waters just north of Plum Island Center.

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