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Net Perfection

Cape and Islands fishermen are hooked on striped bass

A local fisherman steps out for what he hopes will be a day full of successful catches. Photo by Erika Wastrom

Stripers are also a delight on the dinner table. Their fillets—sort of carpenter glue off-white with wine-red highlights—cook up white and flaky. Their taste is somewhat stronger than cod or haddock without being gamey. They taste like a fresh ocean breeze feels. You can make fish chowder and they stand up well to baking, broiling, or frying. And perhaps nothing says “summer on the Cape” quite like fresh fish on the grill.

They range up and down the East Coast from their Chesapeake Bay spawning grounds—there is even a West Coast variety. But to me, this is the quintessential New England fish.

Stripers are with us only from about April to October. They head north from the Chesapeake, following the bait and warming water. When our waters hit 50 degrees, the bite turns on. Another indicator is forsythia; when it blooms, there are stripers in our waters. The first spring run striper is usually caught in April from South Cape Beach in Mashpee.

Vinny Foti is president of the Cape Cod Salties Sportfishing Club. After a career as a schoolteacher in Yonkers, New York, he moved to the Cape for the relaxed-pace lifestyle, and soon found the fishing “surpassed anything I’d imagined.” Now he can’t wait to get his boat—Bass Taxi—in the water every spring. “I love to nudge the engine into reverse as it backs me out into the channel at Blish Point and into Barnstable Harbor to chase some early season stripers.”

Alex Hay runs Mac’s Seafood on the lower Cape. He recalls fishing the chilly spring tides with his grandfather around Duck Harbor, Bound Brook, and the Pamet. “On a good day,” Hay says, “we’d catch them by the dozen, teasing them up with long silver and chartreuse flies.”

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