herring run

The fish are here — in force.

Striped bass, alewives (also known as herring), black sea bass and squid have arrived for an early start to the fishing season. Striped bass have been seen and caught in hot pursuit of herring swimming into local coastal ponds.


Zak Potter fishing rod ferry edgartown

Last spring, when a local angler wanted to catch Atlantic mackerel in Vineyard waters he had to get in a boat and motor more than a mile off Gay Head. This week there is no need for the boat. For the first time in many years anglers are jigging for mackerel off Memorial Wharf in Edgartown and they are getting quite a few; some have caught enough for a holiday dinner. Plus, they are catching plenty of Atlantic herring.

Herring are back and the numbers are stronger compared with a year ago. Also known as alewives, herring are one of the true coastal signs of spring and considered essential bait fish in the food chain.

While the reports of numbers this spring are improved over last year, they are at best cautiously optimistic. A state moratorium prohibiting the catching of herring has been in place since 2005. The ban was a response to a dramatic drop in the numbers of fish returning in the spring of 2004 and before. Recovery has been slow, if at all, until this spring.



Vineyard fishermen have joined a federal lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission over the lack of management of river herring and shad in federal waters. The lawsuit targets offshore industrial large-scale fishing boats working the Gulf of Maine and waters south of the Vineyard as culprits in the sharp decline of the fish.

Commercial and recreational fishermen are challenging two government agencies for failing to protect river herring and shad from being caught and killed by Atlantic industrial fisheries.


Ravaging of the river herring population by midwater trawlers and an absence of round-the-clock environmental police protection were the hot topics at a meeting between Cape and Islands Rep. Tim Madden and members of the newly formed Martha’s Vineyard Dukes County Fishermen’s Association Friday.