The State of the Striper – a Massachusetts Perspective

Matt Zimmerman cradles this 48-incher caught this summer on a fly rod near Marblehead just before its safe release. (Photo courtesy of Brian Coombs)

Ask a striper fisherman how their season was in 2020, and the answer you get will vary widely, depending on where that angler wets their line.

Some areas saw incredible bites (Raritan Bay in spring, Boston Harbor in June/July) while others experienced a big drop-off from recent years (The Cape Cod Canal). Some fishermen found big bass, while others found promising numbers of schoolies.

Overall, however, the combined experiences along the striper coast reflect the reality of the state of the striper stock, and it agrees with the science: Striped bass were declared overfished last year, and in 2020 we’re fishing under a new “slot limit” (28 to 35 inches).

In the beginning of the year, Manchester, Massachusetts-based writer James Behnke published an article sharing the views of some of the Massachusetts North Shore’s fishing guides on the health of our striper fishery and summarizing new regulations from the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries (DMF). With the 2020 season in the rear-view mirror, he’s debriefed some of the fishing guides about how the season played out and loop back to his sources at the DMF for some perspective on the state of the striper fishery.

Location, timing, environmental factors (notably, record ocean temperatures), and a boom in the local menhaden population all affected individual experiences on the water, but most guides are worried about the state of the striper fishery. Reports of another year of poor spawning success in the Chesapeake Bay have added to their concern.

As Behnke writes:  “We need to understand that our subjective appraisal of any given fishing season is a lagging indicator of the health of the striped bass fishery. For those of us who keep any stripers or cause their mortality during the catch-and-release process, we are quite literally “taking stock” from a fishery under threat of collapse. And yet, while fishermen and even fisheries management professionals, focus on the output of the fishery, the biggest threat may be the input.”

I recommend reading the full article, Taking Stock: The 2020 Striper Season at

20 on “The State of the Striper – a Massachusetts Perspective

  1. bunker

    epic couple of MONTHS fishing in deep water just outside boston harbor…ill never forget those feeds…hundreds, and what seemed like endless 40-50+ inchers decimating top waters like Sack Lodge and quail decimate the grub worm population…great year of stripes.

  2. reelfinaddict

    The only reel solution is to go back to what made the return of the Striper Fishery the success story it was. A 36″ one fish per season limit untill the spawns improve. Then maybe add an under 28″ bag limit. The would protect the spawning age fish. Also prohibiting the reduction industry from setting on schools of stripers would also be required

  3. Nick

    A strong effort needs to be put forth to reduce the numbers of bigger fish taken (35” or greater)…That said, the striped bass is a very misunderstood fish, even to this day…We cant always predict and believe that they will always hunker close to shore for boaters and surfcasters…Its a very big ocean! I do believe that the striper stocks are being reduced but I also think there is an ebb and flow to where Striped Bass decide to show and that is something we just cannot always readily predict….Even before the high fishing pressure that striped bass face today, there was always ebb and flows to the fishery dating back many years…Lets do what we can to preserve the species and in the meantime lets be hopeful that we WILL see great striper years again!

  4. ZZ

    The stripper fishing near NYC waters has been amazing these last few years, so if you asked me I would say they are very abundant,,,,but I guess that’s what the article is about…I trust the author’s research because my info is just anecdotal.


    I Had a great month this fall from Sept 16 to October 14,i fish a dirty jersey river,and caught over 200 Striped Bass From 16 to 30 inches!!! Bunker,Alewife, everywhere,then gone !! All Released!!!

  6. Stephen Desisto

    I think the article you posted is ok but it didn’t touch on a number of game fish that have been vanishing such as Blue fish Weak fish, inshore cod ,inshore fluke , Pollack ,the whole lot of New England fish along the coast has been lost .So don’t leave out the other fish we use to catch from shore .

    1. Logic1

      Excellent points. It is amazing how the in shore fisheries have been decimated. Without stripers what would be left for the shore fishermen to catch. Years ago there used to be a run of cod into the Merrimack River. Harbor pollock have seemed to disappeared.

  7. Cris Quale

    ITS QUITE CLEARLY CONVEYING AN ATMOSPHERE OF ANOTHER ARENA..NOT FISH OR WHERE THE FISH RESIDE.. CHANGES TO WHAT IT REALLY ENTAILS IS UNSTOPPABLE..NOTHING CAN STOP IT OR CHANGE..DELAY MAYBE ..BUT NOT CHANGE THE DIRECTION OF THE ARENA CLIMATE. WHICH IS ON FIRE AND FULL STEAM AHEAD ..THE Kraken is in the water and AND A LIL too gigantic to not be noted or seen… CRAZY.??. Just try to MAKE SENSE OF NONSENSICAL DATA… And it starts making perfect sense..god bless the oceans and all its fish and the fishermen who are not interested harming the environment and its fish .

  8. Eric Carlson

    Surf fishing on the south shore this year was less than great. There was a tremendous about of effort to catch very few fish.

  9. Bill Fippinger

    I remember when you put the moratorium on the striped bass they came back and Eugen numbers. This should be done again for one year and then .next year moratorium on fluke open up the striped bass.
    open up fluke and put a moratorium on black sea bass. And just rotate the three species. my name is bill fippinger..
    Retired Bayman

  10. MN Joseph

    Cobwebs rods and reels,
    Like the once proud working man,
    Striper extinction.

  11. craig

    Easy solution, go a year at least or so without anyone being able to keep a fish. If you are fishing for food, stop doing that and go get a job and buy food. If you are paying $700 bucks for a charter, you are fishing for the fun of it, being out on the water with friends and doing something fun. The whole (we need to take fish home for food cuz we paid for the charter is lame). If you can afford the charter, you can afford to go buy fish if you really want fish. Fishing to me is like golf, I play, but don’t take home a trophy with me every round. Maybe I get a pic, maybe I don’t but I have no need to slaughter a striper every day so I can cook it!

    1. Paul

      Someone has to get out of the basement. I like fish so I keep one every once in awhile. A resource can be harvested and managed correctly if intelligent people are put in charge and everyone plays by the rules

  12. Jeff

    Plymouth/Buzzards Bay shore fishing was tough this year, for me at least. I went weekly and caught all schoolies – with a lot of zero-fish outings – ranging from 12 or 13 inches to a 25-incher off the Plymouth Jetty. Love going, but didn’t see as many fish as I’d hoped.

  13. Fishihgmack

    WTF! Why dont any or you high tech conservationists come down on commercial bass fishing. Im supposed to release my slot fish while they are allowed to rape 15 of the largest breaders.

  14. Chuck Dumas

    This year south shore ma. Was crazy with the amount of guys fishing ! Mabe it was covid and the lack of work but those numbers of fishermen will not be good on the already in trouble fishery!

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