from Men's Lives
 By Peter Matthiessen
Mr. Matthienssen's chapter on the biology, the appeal and the early politics of striped bass provides a background that should be required reading for anyone involved in fisheries allocation issues.
Chapter 7 A Delicate, Fine, Fat, Faste Fish  

On Thanksgiving Day, 1923, the keeper of the Montauk Light noticed a big school of striped bass off the rocks; in just over an hour, with fifty-seven casts, he horsed in fifty-six bass up to twelve pounds each. "Striped bass fishing is nowhere better," the East Hampton Star reported at the end of that season. Yet the bass had been very scarce since the 1880s, and a few years later the species was so rare that its probable extinction was predicted, lending support to a growing movement among sportsmen to eliminate commercial fishing from Long Island. 

As early as 1924, in an amendment to the state marine fisheries conservation law, it was proposed that all dragging or trawling of any kind be prohibited in state waters, and that all other netting be so severely curtailed that, in effect, all fishing except angling would come to an end. Among those who denounced this drastic measure was Captain William Tuthill of Montauk, an old-timer who was able to point to extreme cycles of scarcity in numerous migratory fish species: 

In the year 1870 there was a large run of weakfish at Montauk, but for some unknown reason they never came up bay. In 1906 and 1907 there was anotherlarge run of weakfish. But where have the bonitas gone? No one can tell. They may be and probably will be back, because other fish have gone and come the same way. I remember one day off Montauk Point as far as the eye could see in every direction bonitas were jumping out of the water. This was in 1914.... I remember in 1865 there were very few sea bass caught. In 1870 they came on again in large numbers, and in 1890 there seemed to be no end to them.... They were caught off Gardiners Island on October 15. A few days later, we didn't get a fish. It is just the same with other fish—they come and go' and no man or set of men can control the movements of salt water fish.... Where would the public be but for the net fishermen? They never could have a fish to eat. And yet we have to go to Albany to fight for our rights. 

Eventually the bill was defeated in the legislature by a vote of 45 to 3. The sportsmen's mutterings continued, however, and a decade later their delegates in Albany were back again with a similar bill: "It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to take fish in any of the tidal waters of Long Island by means of nets, fish pounds [traps], set lines [trawl lines], or beam trawls [dragging], except that minnows or shrimp may be taken for bait.... 

This act shall take effect immediately." Other proposed measures that year forbade the sale of striped bass and bluefish under a certain size, and all commercial hand-lining for weakfish in Peconic Bay, where in the years of striped bass scarcity, weakfish sustained a profitable catch in April, May, andJune. Eventually this legislation was defeated too, not only because weakfish were plentiful, but because it was clear that recreational fishermen were taking many more than the commercial men. However, very similar attempts to limit the commercial catch were to be repeated with striped bass in the decades to come. As Captain Charles L. Tuthill wrote in the East Hampton Star, Feb. 2, 1934: 

The sports fishing organizations are seeking such legislation here on the east end of Long Island as our people do not want. It affects the freedom of our bays to everybody and permits only such fishing methods as their bill might approve.  

Is it not a fact that those who have been using our bays for generations are better qualified to judge if protective measures are necessary? This sudden fear of our marine resources being abused and exploited by the commercial fishermen is nothing but a state of mind without any foundation in fact, and brought about by propaganda and misguided ideas as to conservation needs. There have been years of plenty and years of scarcity of practically all kinds of migratory fish, which the oldest fishermen can testify to, and why, no man with certainty can tell. We are going to make the prediction that this fine run of weakfish which have been coming for the past few years will turn in some other direction in the not far distant future only to come back again when natural conditions are favorable, and this without any futile attempt at regulation by man....  

We would like to believe that the anglers' grievances concerning commercial fishing methods, the supposed need of conservation measures, are due to a lack of painstaking efforts to get at the true facts. But if this is not the case, the only sane conclusion to which we can arrive is that this whole conservation propaganda is nothing more or less than a mask behind which is a desire to monopolize Peconic Bay for sports activities alone.  

In 1934 an anti-netting measure was "narrowly forestalled" in the legislature, according to the East Hampton Star, which made this comment on December 20 of that year: "Last year when there was agitation in the state assembly for various regulatory laws for commercial fishing for the benefit of sport fishing, the assertion was made that all trap fishing should be stopped on the south shore of Long Island, as they were catching such huge quantities of fish that they could not survive. Investigation of the true condition disclosed that there were only a few traps and that they did not take in a week the quantity taken by the sports in a day. A suggestion to stop hand-lining up-bay during spawning season of the weakfish, on the other hand, met with loud opposition from the sport boat captains. It all depends on whose bull is being gored.'' [1] 

Nevertheless, large commercial hauls continued to outrage the recreational angler, and particularly that species called the surfcaster, whose primary habitat in New York State is the coastal stretch of rock and beach on both sides of Montauk Point. Except for the experts,surfcasting for stripers is one of the least efficient methods of angling ever devised, due to the self-imposed limitations of the caster. He cannot, first of all, reach the more productive depths available to a man trolling from a boat. Also, his range is much more limited, and his lure spends less time actually at work. Even when a fish is hooked, it must be landed through the rocks or surf and is therefore lost at least as often as it is brought slapping from the water. The expert, of course, can reach out farther and place his lure just where he wants it, at a known rock or hole or eddy, and he does not waste time casting blindly but moves from one known spot to another. It is said, with somejustice, that 5 percent ofthe surfcasters catch 95 percent of all fish taken from the shore. 

Even for him who spends months or years, often at night or in foul weather, lashing the water white in quest of a large fish tasting of iodine that has already cost him a great amount of time and money, this sport has an uncanny attraction. The unseen quarry and mysterious dark water, the pleasure taken in the strong and skillful cast, the sound and smell of sea and weather, the healing solitude, and the suspense, are reward enough to the true sportsman who seeks no profit from his hobby, and surfcasting for striped bass probably claims more fanatics than any other form of saltwater fishing. 

Whether novice or expert, surfcaster or boatman, the angler reacts to a truckload of big "trophy fish" as a gourmet might to a trashcan full of caviar, and his distress is understandable, though not well-founded. His wily foe loses dignity in the mass, especially if the angler has passed the whole of a rainy night without a strike only to be confronted at daybreak with a bag of stripers as large, or larger than his car. In that bag, it seems to him, gasps "the fish that had my name on it," and even in years when bass are plentiful, he interprets the large haul, not as good news of bass prosperity, but as evidence of exploitation and overfishing. 

In fact, however, there have rarely been more than eight or ten haul-seine crews at work in one season on all of the South Fork, and few if any farther to the west. This is mostly because—on this hundred-mile beach—there are so few places that it pays to fish. To the west, the fish migration along shore is too sparse to justify the effort; to the east, near Montauk Point, rocks and sunken ships, struck on the bar and emerging intermittently in the wake of storms, have become obstructions, known as hang-ups or fasts. There are also stretches where storm has carved away the sloping sand, leaving a beach too steep to work from, and mudholes, where the seine is fouled by storm-exposed peat from an older shoreline farther out to sea. 

Therefore the seiners are confined to specific locations, or sets—the Georgica set or the Ditch Plains set or the Eagle Boat set [2] or the Towers set off the ITT radio towers on the Napeague stretch? still known from the days of the old fish depot platform as Napig Station. (One set in this stretch was spoiled by the crash of a 707 in the sixties, the motors of which emerge as hang-ups to this day. Bill Lester agreed to haul seine for the bodies, and landed parts of more than one: "Supposed to get paid for 'em, too," he says today. "Ain't paid me yet!") 

Excepting a clear mile of Napeague Beach, east to Hither Plains, there are only a half dozen places between Amagansett and the Point where a net can be put with confidence into the water. There are three sets in Amagansett, then another clear stretch of East Hampton beach from the Eagle Boat set west of Two Mile Hollow Road to the old "Pots 'n Kitties" whale works location off the middle of Hook Pond. There is also a clear stretch at Wainscott, and a few good sets at Sagaponack, Mecox, and Flying Point, in Southampton Town. But many of these locations are considered dead spots, while other spots "where the bait seems to lay or somethin" produce fish year after year. Probably there are no more than eighteen good sets in all of the thirty-one miles of beach between Shinnecock Inlet and Montauk Point. 

(The term "set" also refers to the direction of the longshore current, which is much increased by wind. Unless wind from another quarter rises to check it, an easterly or westerly set can run for days at a time, roiling the channel between the beach and the outer bar. Even in otherwise fair weather, when a dory can go off safely, a strong set eliminates beach hauling, since it pulls the net sideways down the beach and washes it ashore.) 

In September the striped bass regather, on their way to winter grounds. Once in the ocean, the bass move gradually southwestward; the great body of fish passes mostly outside the bar, moving inshore only irregularly. In a long warm fall of steady weather, haul seining may be very good (although a dry haul, with scarcely a fish of any kind, is not uncommon). But autumn storms limit the fishing, and an average of four work days a week is probably high. Since the number of sets is very limited, since the seine works only during the time it takes to haul, and since there may be no weather for hauling for days at a time, one can understand the haul-seiners' conviction that these few hours out of every week scarcely diminish the migrating schools. On the other hand, after World War II, numerous anglers became adept at hooking bass with baits, jigs, plugs, lures, and live eels, and both boatmen and surfcastersbegan selling their fish, until many more bass in the commercial markets were being caught by hook and line than were caught in nets. Under the circumstances, the commercial men found it difficult to understand the unrelenting attitude of certain sportsmen, whose hostility seemed to grow as the bass increased. 

Entirely oblivious to the controversy is the placid and handsome marine vertebrate known in the South Atlantic states as the rockfish, or rock, and in the Northern states as the striped bass. The biologist classifies Morone saxatilis as an anadromous and tolerant member of the family Serranidae, or sea bass, a group that includes the anadromous white perch of the coastal ponds and is closely related to freshwater perches. By anadromous is meant the characteristic of ascending from salt into fresh water to spawn. By tolerant is meant a considerable adaptability to a wide variety of conditions, including changes in salinity and temperature, turbulence, man-made pollution, and food. (Though they favor small fishes, striped bass also eat lobsters and crabs, soft clams and mussels; while in the estuaries, they are partial to Nereis worms.) An early—and striking—example of striped bass tolerance was the shipment by rail in 187g and 1881 of a total of 435 small fish from New Jersey to California for transplanting in San Francisco Bay. Within two decades, the commercial landings of a species heretofore unknown in the Pacific totaled 1,234,000 pounds, and the bass has since spread to southern California and to British Columbia. 

Left to itself, this strong silver-white fish with black lateral stripes from gills to tail (the dorsal area is often greenish, and the silver scales glint with tints of brass) aspires to an age of thirty and a weight of 125 pounds. Its broken stripes tend to blur and fade with age, and a larger fish often acquires a pot belly. Widely celebrated as splendid game and table fish, these mighty bass are known to awestruck anglers as stripers, greenheads, lunkers, linesiders, soakers, tackle-busters, and the like. Since almost all of the big fish are aging females, they are known to the commercial men as cows. 

More than a few of the larger specimens have little more fight than a foul-hooked copy of the Sunday New York Times, with taste to match. Nevertheless, their great weight and thrash, in conditions of surf and boiling rocks, make them a redoubtable foe when hooked from shore. Armored by thick scales and gill plates and propelled by a strong heavy tail, the bass is beautifully designed for rough white water, and seeing one whirl out to strike a lure will make a man a surfcaster for life. The small bass (five pounds and under in market terms; the medium bass is five to fifteen pounds, and the large bass is any fish above that size) is vigorous and very tasty; it has been called the most desired food and game fish on the Atlantic coast. 

Sport-fishing writers habitually refer to stripers as wily, crafty, even wise, and although this wisdom might also be perceived as lethargic indifference to lures, live baits, or other enticements designed to remove them from their natural environment in river estuaries and along the coast, the commercial men also will testify to their sagacity; the bass, they say, is the first species to find its way out of a fish trap, and the first to escape through any opening when a net is hauled. 

On the Atlantic coast, the hardy bass is found not only in estuaries, bays, and along the ocean shore, but as far inland as it can swim up any stream that empties into the sea. It ascends the Hudson 160 miles to Albany, and it is also found three hundred miles inland at Rhodes Landing, Georgia, as well as in the Santee-Cooper Reservoir, in South Carolina. There Lakes Marion and Moultrie, created in 1941 by a federal power project and invaded by the ubiquitous bass by way of the Pinopolis locks on the Cooper River, yielded a conservative estimate of 100,000 pounds to astonished anglers in the three months preceding Christmas 1954. Since they now spawn there, it can be assumed that the bass readily become landlocked fish, with no biological dependence on salt water. By comparison, the anadromous Atlantic salmon is so intolerant of dams and pollution that it has vanished from almost all of its ancestral streams. 

Striped bass spawn in a shifting and variable environment where the salt tides meet the freshwater spring rains in the large estuaries. A successful spawning, producing what biologists call a dominant year-class, depends upon a complex balance of conditions, including rainfall, salinity, water temperature and cleanliness, available nutrients, wind, currents, and weather, and the fact that one female may lay several million eggs is less significant in the survival of the species than the aquatic conditions that surround the hatch and determine the ratio of survival. But the long-lived bass is well adapted to patterns of drastic population fluctuation. For a decade or more it may all but disappear; then, in a single spawning season when conditions are harmonious, a relatively small number of adult females may produce an immense stock of new fish. 

"Striped bass spawn in the spring at the freshwater-saltwater interface of major estuarine systems. Probably no aquatic environment is as variable from one year to the next . . . in response to spring freshwater flow.... The chances for annual spawning success in such an unpredictable environment are relatively poor, with the high probability that there will be far more poor years than good ones. Therefore, in order to survive as a species, it had to become long-lived and very fecund, so that it could sustain itself for ten to fifteen years at a time—if need be—between successful spawning years. Historical records seem to bear this out. Prior to 1900, there are reports of both scarcity and abundance. In fact, the N.Y. State Fish Commission, about 1895, noted that because bass were so scarce at the time, a hatchery at Cold Spring Harbor was recommended. We know from personal knowledge and commercial fishing statistics that there have been extreme population cycles throughout this century.[3]  

Populations of bass at the north and south ends of its long range—the Canadian populations from Quebec southward, and also those from southern North Carolina to north Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico west to the Mississippi—are mostly estuarine and riverine in habit and do not appear to migrate, although some will ascend hundreds of miles upriver in the spawning season. There are also nonmigratory populations in the Chesapeake and other areas in the center of the range. But for reasons not well understood, large numbers of Mid-Atlantic bass from Cape Hatteras to the Hudson, and particularly from Chesapeake Bay, move out of the estuaries to travel north and south along the coast. The great majority of these migratory fish are females between two and four years old. Small school bass, appearing on the east end of Long Island in late April, are followed in May by the medium fish; the large bass, most of them spent spawners, do not ordinarily appear until early June. By early July, the migration has passed to Massachusetts and the Gulf of Maine, leaving small concentrations in such sportsmen's haunts as Montauk Point, Block Island, Watch Hill, Point Judith, Cuttyhunk, Nantucket, and Cape Cod. 

In late summer the bass start to move south again, while those in Long Island Sound move east, heading seaward through the passages at Plum Gut and the Race. Throughout the autumn, striped bass congregate around Montauk Point, where they fatten for the winter on the shoals of bait fish. By Thanksgiving most of them are gone, though a few small bass may persist along the beach until the first snow in early December. Once they leave Montauk, their distribution is incompletely known. In 1953 one authority speculated that "a good proportion of these bass that come from the south when they are three or four years old may remain in the north for the rest of their lives."[4] Some fish overwinter in deep tidal channels of the coastal rivers, and some, it appears, move offshore to deep water of the continental shelf (in February 1949, a small bass was picked up by a trawler in the open ocean about sixty miles south of Martha's Vineyard). But bass schools are never seen on the surface more than a few miles offshore, and most fish, it was thought, seemed to return south to the Chesapeake, with a good number moving farther still, to inshore waters between Cape Henry and Cape Lookout. 

The Chesapeake and Hudson appear to supply almost all the migratory bass in the Northeast [5],  but in other days large populations in such places as the Roanoke River of North Carolina, the York River of Virginia, and the Delaware Bay doubtless contributed to the migrations. Before the nineteenth century, when many rivers were despoiled by dams, industry, and untreated sewage, this prosperous species must have spawned in almost every estuary on the Atlantic coast, and small endemic races still persist all the way north to the St. Lawrence River and all the way south to the St. Johns River in Florida, in addition to the northeast Gulf Coast populations (entirely isolated from the fish of the Atlantic coast by the emergence of the Florida peninsula after the Ice Age), which occur as far west as Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. While these races may vary in such minor morphological traits as the number of soft rays, or. spines, in the dorsal, pectoral, and anal fins, and the number of scales along the lateral line, all are local populations of the hardiest and most widespread food fish species in the coastal waters of North America. 

Before the ruin of the rivers, striped bass numbers must have been more consistent than they are today. The bass helped to sustain the Pilgrims in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and astounded CaptainJohn Smith, who wrote in his journal ofthat coast (1614), "I myself at the turning of the tyde have seen such multitudes pass out of a pounce that it seemed to me that one might go over their backs drishod. "[6] one of Smith's contemporaries called the bass "a most sweet and wholesome fish as ever I did eat . . . altogether as good as our fresh Sammon.... Our Fishers take many hundreds together ... yea, their Netts ordinarily take more than they are able to hall to Land."[7] Twenty years later, William Wood, in his New England's Prospect, called the bass "one of the best fishes in the Country . . . a delicate, fine, fat, faste fish.... The English at the top of an high water do crosse the creek with long seanes or bass nets which stop the fish; and the water ebbing from them, they are left on the dry grounds, sometimes two or three thousand at a set, which are salted up against winter, or distributed to such as have present occasion either to spend them in their homes or use them for their grounds." The Pilgrims also caught them "with hook and line, the fisherman taking a great cod line to which he fasteneth a peece of lobster and threwes it into the sea. The fish biting at it, he pulls her to him and knockes her on the head with a sticke."[8] (The passage also testifies to the abundance of lobster, which nobody would use today for fish bait.) But as early as 1639, in the first conservation law passed in the New World, Massachusetts forbade the use of this delicate, fine, fat, fast fish for fertilizer, which suggests that its multitudes had limits, even then. 

Colonists from Massachusetts who settled the east end of Long Island in this period apparently found bass common on the Long Island coasts, but in the last half of the eighteenth century a decline was already noted in the Gulf of Maine. The fish recovered somewhat in the first part of the nineteenth century, but a history of Cape Cod published in 1862 described the species as much less plentiful than formerly. Though still abundant in the Mid-Atlantic states in the 1870s, bass became so scarce north of Boston that in certain years there was no commercial catch at all (the nonmigratory populations farther northward were more stable), and a decline was soon apparent to the southward. In the half century and more of increasing striped bass scarcity after 1880, dams, dredging, and pollution ruined the spawning grounds, as more and more estuaries, rivers, and creeks were removed from the species' range. 

Amagansett men "occasionally fish with seines for striped bass and other species on the Atlantic side. The bass have been scarce this year," says an observer of a century ago, in 1880;[9] he cites a Talmage of Sag Harbor, a Ludlow of Bridgehampton, and a Burnett of Southampton, all of whom agree that the striped bass was scarce and growing scarcer. Between 1880 and 1897, the highest yield of bass in a single year was 200,000 pounds (as compared to a high of 2,500,000 pounds for weakfish) and in 1895 the New York State Fish Commission recommended a bass hatchery at Cold Spring Harbor. There seemed no cause for alarm, however. "Though the striped bass has undoubtedly decreased greatly in abundance during the century, it is still an abundant fish," according to turn-of-the-century authorities. [l0] 

To judge from the recollections of the Lesters, the first decades of the present century were progressively poorer. Between 1921 and 1938, the highest annual bass catch for all Long Island was 120,000 pounds,[11] a tiny fraction of the annual Long Island landings of all finned fish species, which in 1938 came to fifty million pounds. In 1928, when a fifth dam was built on the Chesapeake's main tributary, the Susquchanna, the bass stocks in the bay quickly diminished, and by the early 1930s it was actually said that the species was becoming extinct. But the enlargement of the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal a few years earlier had flushed out much of the stagnation in the upper bay, preparing the way for successful spawnings in 1933 and 1934; the great year-class of 1934, in fact, was the largest in the memory of man. 

With the reappearance of small bass a few years later, measures were taken to avoid another precipitous decline. In 1939, following the recommendations of Dr. Daniel Merriman, director of the gingham Oceanographic Laboratories at Yale University, the size limit on coastal bass taken in New York (and most other North Atlantic states as well) was raised from fourteen to sixteen inches, or about two pounds, at which size the young female fish first spawns. But on the Chesapeake fishing grounds of Maryland and Virginia, where over half of the Atlantic coast striped bass were harvested, the size limit remained at fourteen inches, and in Delaware and North Carolina, it was twelve. 

Throughout the forties the striped bass grew more abundant, but rod-and-reel fishermen were now abundant, too. Schooling up in large lobbying aggregations, they began to put pressure on the politicians for legislation to reserve the bass for recreational anglers, who could round up far more votes than the commercial men. This campaign, led by the rugged fraternity of surEcasters (which produced its own dominant year-class with the advent of beach buggies and sophisticated spinning tackle after World War II), was generally endorsed by small boat fishermen. Similarly, the charter boatmen felt obliged to support their excited customers, though most of them knew there were plenty of bass and that restrictions on small local net fisheries that were harvesting migrating fish would not significantly affect the far greater numbers taken on rod and reel. 

In 1945 the sportsmen triumphed in Massachusetts, where all netting of striped bass was now prohibited; the sportsmen could and did point out that good surfcasting and bass boat fishing at Cuttyhunk, Cape Cod, Nantucket, and many other excellent locations produced far more income for local communities than the marginal net fisheries, and far more votes for politicians, as well. The commercial netters, in effect, had been put out of business by commercial rod-and-reelers, who now had a monopoly on peddling bass, and this new breed of money-minded sportsmen organized effective lobbies that put strong pressure on sportsmen in other states to fight for complementary legislation. Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, where netting was insignificant, fell into line (though bass laws vary in each state), but New York and Rhode Island, with important local fisheries, refused. No reputable biologist seemed to feel that such discriminatory legislation was desirable, and even the anglers' magazine, Salt Water Sportsman, had certain doubts about the proposed restrictions. In 1948 it offered the views of the leading striped bass expert, Dr. Merriman, who wrote in part: "The fluctuations in abundance are due more to the environment than to the size of the adult stock.... Indeed, an awkward problem is posed by the fact that the dominant year-classes [such as the one in 1933] have a nasty habit of turning up when the adult stock is at the lowest level. In the case of the striped bass, there is no evidence that an increase in stock will produce more young. Since all evidence indicates that the stock of striped bass is adequate for both commercial and sporting interests, the efforts of the sportsmen to eliminate commercial fishing is in no way justified from a conservation point of view. " 

"In the case of the striped bass, " declared another bass biologist, Dr. James R. Westman, chairman of the Department of Wildlife Conservation at Rutgers, "hook-and-line fishing is inadequate for harvesting anything like the quantity of stripers that can be quite safely taken each year. The present net harvesting of striped bass, for example, is some eight million pounds per year throughout its Middle-Atlantic range from Virginia to Massachusetts, and yet the supply of striped bass has been increasing, irregularly, since 1933.... At present, the elimination of commercial netting for striped bass would not only be unjustified from a conservation point of view but would actually be wasteful." 

In June of 1952, alarmed by the sharp dispute that year in the state assembly, the magazine of the New York Conservation Department (now the Department of Environmental Conservation, or D.E.C.) published the opinions of Drs. Merriman and Westman, who were growing weary of having their findings ignored. "It is a curious anachronism," Dr. Merriman observed, "that the unusual abundance with which we have been blessed has, in a round-about way, resulted in frequent acrimonious disputes between commercial and sporting interests." And the Conservationist commented, "In this controversy the department found itself, as it often does, being pressed to throw overboard the findings of the country's best biologists, who in this case do not recommend reserving the striper solely for the angler." As will be seen, the pressure had scarcely begun. 

Already a great amount of research on the striper was being implemented, organized, and published by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which was subsidized, in part, by an excise tax on fishing tackle. The commission, which concerns itself with all fish and shellfish problems on the Atlantic coast, coordinates the findings of the marine biological laboratories, the state research programs, the university departments of conservation and biology, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and interested anglers and commercial men whose aid is conscripted in fish-tagging surveys and other studies contributory to the understanding and management of this resource. The chief function of its striped bass committee is to discover and promote conservation practice and state legislation beneficial to both bass and man. 

In 1953 the commission made this statement on the general subject of legislation in the fisheries: "During the past thirty years there has been a growing trend toward social legislation in the marine fisheries of the several Atlantic states. Except in rare instances, such social legislation seeks to protect one particular fishery interest at the expense of another. . . . Such acquisitive attempts often claim conservation and sound management as their objectives. Rarely, however, is there sound scientific evidence to back these claims. Accordingly, this commission now feels called upon to indicate the possible results and danger that such legislation may hold and to point out that unless this trend is checked and far greater consideration given to scientific data and warranted conclusions, the longtime result may well be a gross mismanagement of our marine fishery resources.... " 

But none of these sensible observations eased the dispute, which was to fester for the next thirty years. Old-fashioned sportsmen had largely been replaced by the "meat fishermen, " who accused the commercial men of ravaging natural resources, a cry taken up by fishing columnists and sportsmen's magazines. Wrongly encouraged in such prejudices, as one observer commented, "the angler, in company with his friends, will start a crusade against some innocent group of people who make their living from the sea. " It was not an apologist for the commercial men who made this comment but Dr. Edward C. Raney of Cornell, who would inherit Dr. Merriman's position as the foremost authority on the striped bass. I happened to know Dr. Merriman quite well and had spoken and corresponded with Dr. Raney, who came to Long Island several times to observe the haul-seining operation; both biologists deplored the unsporting crusade against the commercial men that was already well under way in the early fifties. 


1 By this time the East Hampton Star was owned and edited by Arnold Rattray, who had married Captain Evvie Edwards's daughter, but it had been sympathetic to the commercial men before this time and maintains interest and sympathy to this day, under the successive editorships of Jeannette, Everett, and Helen Rattray. 

2 Named for U.S. Submarine Chaser #17 of the Eagle Boat class, which went aground and sank west of Two Mile Hollow in 1922. 

3 Anthony Taorima, director of the Marine Fisheries Division of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

4 Bigelow and Schroeder, Fishes ofthe CulfofMairze. 

5 Until recent years, Hudson River fish were thought to confine their coastal movements to Long Island Sound east of Stratford Shoal and the south shore of Long Island west to Moriches Inlet; the bass at the east end of the Sound, entering from the east, were assumed to be Chesapeake fish. This is no longer true, if indeed it ever was. 

6 Most quotations of this passage leave out the words "pass out of a pounce" (a fish trap), which alters the sense of it considerably. 

7 Quoted in D. S. Jordan and B. W. Evermann, American Food and Game Fishes, Doubleday, Page, New York, 1903. 

8 Bigelow and Schroeder, Fishes of the Gulf of Maine. 

9 Goode, Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States. 

10 Jordan and Evermann, American Food and Game Fishes. 

11 Paul Bailey, Long Island: A History of Two Counties, 
Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1949. 

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