He is the size of
a minnow at birth. Those most frequently taken by fishermen range from one
pound to 10. Twenty-five-and 30-pounders are fairly common, 50-and 60-pounders
are rare enough to call for pictures in the sports pages. The world record
striper taken on hook and line was a 73-pounder caught in Vineyard Sound off
Cuttyhunk Island, Mass. in 1913. A striper weighing 112 pounds was taken in a
net at Orleans, Mass. many years before that.
the biggest bass "bulls," but that is a misnomer. The biggest stripers
are always females and so would be "cows." A 60-pound striper may be
anywhere from 20 to 30 years old.
The striper is a
self-made fish. Man has done nothing for him and neither have fish. He is born
without a mother's love or a father's tender care. The spawning ceremony
(always in brackish or fresh water) consists of a female "broadcasting"
thousands or hundreds of thousands of eggs (as many as 5 million sometimes)
while a number of males set up a great splashing that has procreative
consequences. After the splashing ritual both males and females forget the
whole episode and the eggs are caught up in the currents to survive or perish.
Most of them do perish, but if only one percent survive there are plenty of
most spectacular theater of operations is that area of the Atlantic coast
extending from Chesapeake Bay in Maryland to the coast of Maine. Every spring
millions of bass swim out of Chesapeake Bay and move up the coast, past New
Jersey, along the south shore of Long Island to Montauk, then out across the
open ocean to the coast of Rhode Island, on up to Cuttyhunk, the westernmost
island of the St. Elizabeth chain off the south-east coast of Massachusetts.
Cuttyhunk is the great crossroads of striper traffic. Some stay right there for
the summer, some peel off and swim down Vineyard Sound to the islands of
Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Millions of others swim past Cuttyhunk into
Buzzards Bay, through the ("ape Cod Canal up the Cape to Province-town and
perhaps on to Maine. After summering in the north the great majority of the
stripers begin a return migration in the fall (starting in a few weeks from
now) and it is during these north and south migrations that the striper addicts
go noisily mad. They fish for the striper from the shore and boats; they put on
skin-diving outfits and go below the surface, some to spear, some just to watch
the striper. One man has designed a rubber suit which he inflates and floats
around in, casting for the striper the while.
investigator remembered a name that had been highly recommended by both Coot
Hall at Cuttyhunk and Dr. Merriman at Yale. The name was Otto Scheer, for 60
years a striper fisherman.
In his office in
the British Empire Building at Rockefeller Center in New York, Mr. Scheer, a
manufacturer and designer of jewelry who accepts commissions from all over the
world, leaned back in his chair and glanced at the photographs that filled the
walls. One photograph was of an emerald necklace which he had sold for
$492,000. All the others were of fish.
Mr. Scheer is a
boat fisherman who took the Cuttyhunk design of bass boats and invented new
suicidal techniques of moving into the rocks at Montauk with one breaker and
getting out before the next breaker dashed the boat to bits. This is Mr.
Scheer's idea of fishing. "Surf casting," he said, "is the highly
developed art of fishing where they ain't. Fresh-water fishing is like fishing
in the bathtub."
Mr. Scheer, a
lean, tanned man of 72, said that people are continually asking him to write a
book. "I won't ever do it," he said, "because what is true today
may be ridiculous tomorrow. I remember when fresh-water plugs were adapted to
salt-water fishing. I said they would never do. And they got the fish like
father, William Scheer, founder of the jewelry firm, was a fisherman before
him. Together they perfected certain techniques that made them the envy of
striper fishermen up and down Long Island.
smell the bass. We could tell where they were by the color of the water and the
slicks on the water. But my father did not go along with me when I put power
into the bass boat. He said the noise would scare off the fish.