It is looking like 2020 will be a lean year for striper fishermen along the North Shore and up the Merrimack River.
Fisheries managers earlier this week sharply reduced -- to one -- the number of fish anglers can land during any one trip. It is the most aggressive measure that can be taken to protect the stock, short of banning striper fishing altogether.
Industry leaders, however, aren't complaining. Some are even advocating for the complete ban.
"I think the fishery is in enough trouble to implement a complete moratorium on any harvesting at all," said Fred Jennings, the Massachusetts co-chairman of the Stripers Forever fishing advocacy group.
"I was actually shocked by the fishing this year," Jennings told reporter Sean Horgan. "This year was really horrifying. In August, because of the low quality of the fish, I stopped fishing them altogether."
It's that single-mindedness on the part of fishermen and fishery managers that gives hope for the future of the striper both as a species and as a significant economic engine for the region.
Recreational fishing brings in hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and the striper is the star of the show. Spirited fighters that can live as long as 40 years and weigh up to 100 pounds (although a 40-pounder is cause for celebration these days) they are the most accessible of sport fish. They can be fished from boats, bridges and beaches -- basically anywhere you can get a hook in the water.
"Striped bass are far and away the most popular fish," said Michael P. Armstrong, assistant director at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. "Between 70 and 80% of all fishing trips in a year target striped bass."
There's no arguing that the stock is in danger of collapsing. Fortunately, we've been here before. The fish was almost wiped out in the 1980s before anglers and fishery managers worked together to bring stocks back to healthy levels. It is clear that type of cooperation is once again necessary.