Striped Bass with Max Harvey

  • Rebecca Nottonson
  • 3 min read

Summer wouldn’t be summer without stripers, and the local season is here! We talked to Max Harvey, our head fishmonger, about this favorite summer fish. Learn what makes the Massachusetts fishery special, what’s the deal with lip tags, and what our buyers look for when choosing fish.  


Striped Bass Whole Fish



Wulf’s: Can you tell us about the striped bass fishery here in Massachusetts and what makes it so unique? 

Max: It's just an interesting species to talk about. Stripers range all the way down to the Chesapeake and all the way north into Canada, but New England really is considered one of its home bases— Massachusetts, Cape Cod, the islands, the South coast, all the way up to the North Shore and Gloucester—these fish are all over the coastline. 

It’s a very highly regulated fishery, and the Massachusetts commercial fishery is one of the few in the United States that’s strictly a rod and reel fishery.  


 Wulf’s: How does the fishery regulate to ensure a sustainable population? 

Max: Every fish gets a state-issued lip tag which indicates that it was legally caught in the state of Massachusetts. Other states do this too. 

These tag numbers are used when reporting the fish, which needs to happen on a weekly basis per fishermen, per vessel, per fish.  


Wulf’s: So, what do stripers eat? And what do they taste like? 

Max: Stripers are voracious feeders and have a very dynamic and diverse diet — crabs, shellfish, all kinds of bay fish — mackerel, porgi, squid— they eat a little bit of everything, which enhances the flavor and the fat content of the meat.  

Stripers are sometimes compared to snappers in terms of versatility, but they're unique. The flesh cooks white, but with a richness that lends itself to numerous cooking applications. 


Wulf’s: How do you determine which fish to buy for our customers? 

Max: You look for indicators of care. You're looking at the eye clarity, you're looking at the eye fullness. The eye should not be bulging or sunk down into the eye socket, but rather gently rounded and clear in color.  

When you look at the gills, they should have a nice pink hue with a little bit of slime on them. These are good indicators of a healthy, well taken care of fish. We bleed striped bass upon arrival to help enhance the flesh clarity and color. 

The fish range from 15 to 18 lbs. on the smaller side of the commercial scale, all the way up to 40 or 50 lbs. In my opinion, the smaller fish are preferable for eating, so we go for these. The muscular structure and muscular seams in the fillet make it a little more difficult to handle as the fish gets bigger. 



Wulfs: Let’s talk cooking and eating— as a former chef, how might you approach striped bass? 

Max: Needless to say, Striper is very versatile. I mean, you could cube it up and put it on kabobs if you're savvy enough and have striped bass kabobs or do satay with it.  

I really like striped bass with summer flavors. Fresh herbs— thyme, rosemary, oregano, fresh tomatoes, various types of fresh salsas go great with it.  

When cooking striped bass, one of the main things to think about is to cook it at moderate to high heat and find that perfect range where you can create a slight crust without overdoing it, because it does take on a little too much grill flavor, if you cook it too, too hot and char it too much.  
But it's firm, it's versatile. You know, the misnomer of, ‘oh, you need to put fish in tin foil to cook it on the grill’ — striped bass you can do it right on a hot grill, as is, as if you were grilling a steak.  

But again, it's a beautiful, versatile fish. I typically will sear off a piece, slice up an avocado, have a few tomato slices, maybe make my own caprese with some fresh basil and a little bit of white rice and I'm happy as a clam.  



Wulf’s: Any last words? 

Max: It's an exciting time of year between our local black sea bass, our local fluke, our local stripers— everything’s starting to happen. I am very happy to be pressing into the month of July with one of my favorites.