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