Nearly 1 million herring made their way through Middleboro’s Nemasket River to their spawning grounds at the 5,000 acres Assawompset Pond complex this year, a record number since bottoming out in 2005 with an all time low of 400,000.
Catching herring, once a spring time rite for locals and striper fishermen, has been banned since 2006.
But the ban could be lifted now that the numbers have rebounded says David Cavanaugh, chairman of the Middleboro/Lakeville Herring Commission.
The run peaked this spring, with 1,000 herring counted in a 10-minute span, making it the top in the state.
Michael Armstrong, assistant director at the Division of Marine Fisheries said a mere 34,000 were counted in Wareham’s Agawam River, 82,000 at Herring Brook in Pembroke, just over 100,000 were counted at Town Brook in Plymouth and 380,000 in Weymouth’s Back River.
Armstrong the ban could be lifted on the Middleboro/Lakeville run if the commission develops a plan to sustain the fishery.
That’s good news for fishermen who prize the smelly little fish and consider herring among the best bait to catch striped bass.
While experts have linked many factors to the herring’s steady decline, Armstrong, points a finger at poachers, saying they were snagging 20 to 30 thousand fish a night.
Adult herring have already made their way back to Mount Hope Bay for the open ocean, but Cavanaugh says folks that missed the spring run can try and spot the small fry this fall, as they swim down river to the sea.