Bass Bonanza

Word was out. More than 100 boats rocked on the water east and north of Montauk Point on Saturday morning, most, as best we could tell, seeking the trophy-size striped bass that suddenly appeared here in the preceding days. Success was easy for many anglers, especially those aboard the many charter boats with savvy captains able to put customers on to the fish. Some of the bass reached into the 40-pound range, cows, as they are called, due to their size. Many were thrown back when released from the hooks; some were taken to the dock to be celebrated — and then turned into fillets. 

Media organizations like this one are involved, too, glorifying catches of large bass in fishing reports and photographs of prize-winning fish.

The cow bass’s fecundity also should be taken into consideration. Marine biologists estimate that a 4-year-old striped bass might produce about 175,000 eggs, while one that reaches 16 years and about 40 to 50 pounds might produce more than three million. Some fisheries managers have recommended limiting catches to a “slot” between the female bass’s sexual maturity (at about 22 inches) and 30 inches, for example. New York anglers are allowed to keep one fish of 28 inches and above per day. 

What happens to those that are released is not always good. Studies suggest that in warm waters, like those here in July and August, as many as two-thirds of bass die shortly after they are released.

It is exciting that big stripers have returned. It is up to all of us to make sure that they continue returning for years to come.