Good article in the Newburyport Dailey Times:
Cracking down on striped bass poaching
If the word "poachers" conjures up images of illegal hunting of lions and elephants on the African savanna, think again. There's poaching going on right here at the far end of the Merrimack Valley.
Unscrupulous fishermen are taking undersized striped bass and exceeding catch limits to sell the popular sport fish to restaurants. It's all illegal, and law enforcement is rightly cracking down.
State environmental police officers Scott Maher and Paul Croteau stake out hot fishing holes along the Merrimack River, targeting those who violate fishing regulations. One of those hot spots is Rings Island in Salisbury; another is Deer island in Amesbury. Both are fairly easy to get to by car, but just far enough off the paved road to make poaching a risk some think is worth taking.
It's not, for a number of reasons.
Some of these fishermen claim they're only trying to have a good time. But the evidence Croteau and Maher gather says differently. The officers have seen fishermen hiding their catch in the bushes, taking stripers as short as 8 inches ? the legal minimum size is 28 inches ? and exceeding the legal limit of two fish.
Why poach undersized striped bass? The fish are popular in some restaurants. And with prices for bass hovering around $10 per pound, there is a ready market for those willing to sell for less.
Maher and Croteau have found evidence this is precisely what's happening to the fish. They've found professional filleting knives and coolers used in commercial fish packing among the fishermen's gear.
Poaching striped bass is a crime, and the illegal fishermen deserve the fines they get, which can range up to $300. Striped bass fishing is a popular sport that draws many to the river for the excitement and enjoyment it offers. By taking undersized fish, these poachers are stealing the future of the sport.
Overfishing once caused the striped bass population to plummet. Careful conservation has brought the fish back. They are a resource for all of us to enjoy.
Fishermen and boaters should be watchful and report suspected poaching to the authorities. If the area starts to get a reputation for strict enforcement, and the courts and law enforcement follow up with fines, the message will get through.