DAWN COMES TO MARBLEHEAD“, a memo from Massachusetts

For those that are not familiar with the expression “Dawn comes to Marblehead” it literally refers to the easternmost town in Massachusetts that is the first to “see the light” from the rising sun. It also refers to a person or in this case people who are slow to grasp the facts but finally understand.

Background: Massachusetts is the number one destination for striped bass fishermen. More striped bass are killed in Massachusetts both purposefully (commercially) and inadvertently (catch and release – C&R – mortality) than any other state along the east coast. After many years of putting pressure (read Stripers Forever plus many others) on the MA Division of Marine Fisheries (MDMF) to take conservation measures to reduce released striper mortality the Division itself is finally proposing new striped bass regulations to address the wasteful loss to C&R. Having the Division making the proposals themselves is a major game changer and their proposals are the exact changes that we have been seeking, pleading for, for more than 10 years…. the sun has risen over Marblehead – finally!

MDMF is proposing that the use of gaffs to remove or attempt to remove striped bass from the water be prohibited. It is impossible to accurately measure a fish while it is still swimming on the end of a line. A high proportion of the striped bass caught in MA will be under the legal keeper size of 28 inches and will have to be released hopefully alive. Using a gaff is deadly and wastes a valuable resource that is already in trouble.

Also, it is proposing to mandate the use of inline circle hooks beginning in 2020 by anglers fishing for striped bass with whole or cut natural baits. The circle hook mandate would not apply to artificial lures designed to be trolled, casted and retrieved, or vertically jigged with a natural bait attached. Using in-line circle hooks will dramatically reduce the number of fish that are gut hooked and unnecessarily die after being returned to the water.

These proposed regulations will be heard at two public hearings. WE URGE YOU TO ATTEND and express your support of both proposals! The public hearings scheduled to take comments on these and other proposals are at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, at Admiral’s Hall at the Mass. Maritime Academy, located at 101 Academy Drive in Buzzards Bay; and at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at DMF’s Annisquam River Station, located at 30 Emerson Avenue in Gloucester. Mark the dates.

The Division of Marine Fisheries will also accept public comment through 5 p.m. on Friday, March 1. Please address all written comments to Director Pierce and submit to DMF by e-mail at or by post to 251 Causeway Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02114. Please do this as soon as you finish reading this memo. Thanks!

You have an opportunity to have a direct impact on the outcome of these hearings and thus potentially save the lives of many thousands of striped bass. Please don’t let these fish be killed because we were too lazy to make a small effort to save them. There are times when, as members of Stripers Forever, we are handed a wonderful opportunity to make a difference. This time is now.

This is not a lecture although it sure reads like one. No, the fact is that you will make a difference whether you act or not. If each of us is proactive and show up in numbers and send enough emails we will convince the nine-person oversight board (MA Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission) to implement the proposals. However, if we (you) choose to do nothing then the commercial folks will once again rule the day and the Board will vote the proposals down. Your choice, to take action or to do nothing will, as I said, make a difference – one way or another.

Sorry, I guess this actually is a lecture! However, the outcome really is up to you and what you choose to do about it. Yes, you have heard us ask for your help before but this time, because these proposals now come from the Division itself and not us or from “the outside” as before, this time we have a real chance to be successful. A ton of work has been invested in trying to change the rules in order to protect more fish from wonton waste. Let’s make it happen. With your help – PLEASE – this time it has a real chance of becoming a true conservation reality…… and, it sure would be nice to win one for a change! Please mark your calendars and send that email. Thanks.

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