The New Striper Bait?

Banned in some states, touted in others, the Black Salty has become the talk of herring-less cow towns in the northeast.

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GOLDEN TICKET: The Black Salty is a goldfish bred to live for two hours in salt water.
Photo: Laptewproductions.com

It's no secret that striped bass love herring. But with runs dwindling in the New England states, mandated closures are keeping anglers from using that productive bait. Enter Black Salty. Arkansas-based I.F. Anderson Farms has spent more than five years of selective breeding to develop a hearty, golden-brown goldfish that remains lively in the salt for up to two hours. While Black Salties are said to entice everything from seatrout to tuna farther south, are they the answer to the prayers of New England anglers?

According to Mike Lapisky, acting chief of Rhode Island Fish & Wildlife, the Black Salty is not loved by all.

"I've heard fishermen complain that stripers are spitting them out," says Lapisky. "You also have to keep them in fresh water, but they don't handle chlorine well, so guys are forced to de-chlorinate the water in the live well."

Despite the drawbacks, David Henault, who owns Ocean State Tackle's two Rhode Island locations, says he sells between 70 and 100 pounds of Black Salties every week.

"These baits are highly effective, especially if there is good current or when used at the surface," he says. "Their big body and small tail make quite a racket up on top."

Henault also claims that if kept properly, the baits stay lively longer between spots than herring.

Rhode Island is currently the only New England state with shops importing the new baits, but the fish can be purchased online. Here's where the legal issues begin. For fear of introducing non-native species, some states don't allow goldfish to be used as bait in fresh water. Massachusetts law prohibits their sale as bait statewide, but there's no law against possessing them for use in salt. That means Masschusetts anglers cannot legally buy the baits online, but they can transport them in from Rhode Island. Learn more at www.blacksalty.com.