DNR trims rock season for charters Quota met, fishery will end Saturday


ANNAPOLIS -- The charter-boat season for striped bass will close Saturday at 8 p.m., William P. Jensen, director of fisheries for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Tidewater Administration, said yesterday.

"Notices will go out tomorrow [today]," Jensen said. "Saturday is it, and the creel limits for Friday and Saturday will be reduced to one."

The charter-boat captains, who rent their boats, equipment and expertise to groups of fishermen, opened the season on Oct. 5 with a creel limit of five fish per person. That limit was trimmed to two per person last week.

The recreational season, which opened Oct. 5 with a two-fish-per-person limit, was closed Sunday at 8 p.m.

Both seasons could have run through Nov. 9, but the DNR was empowered to shut down either if it was concluded that a predetermined weight of fish had been caught.

Jensen said that logs of catches reviewed yesterday showed that the charter boats would fill their quota by Saturday.

The charter-boat segment of the fishery was allocated 112,500 pounds, and the recreational fishermen were allocated 318,750 pounds.

The commercial fishery, which opens later this year, has been allocated 318,750 pounds.

The two factors that figured prominently is the closure of the charter-boat and recreational fisheries, Jensen said, were angling pressure and an average catch weight that exceeded expectations.

The DNR expected between 250 and 300 charter boats to take part in the fishery, Jensen said. Between 450 and 460 boats signed up.

"That five-fish creel limit certainly attracted more than we expected," Jensen said. "And the weight of the fish was more than the 3.5-pound average we expected."

The average weight of striped bass taken since Oct. 5 has been between 6 and 6.5 pounds, Jensen said.

Jensen found the fishing effort surprisingly heavy, he said, adding that the warm weather of the first weekend and this past weekend probably boosted the number of fishermen who went out to get their piece of the rock.

The total weights assigned to the charter-boat (15 percent), recreational (42.5 percent) and commercial (42.5 percent) segments of the fishery were taken from a 750,000-pound total catch allowed under state and federal guidelines.

"I think the system worked as we intended, not exactly as we wanted it to," Jensen said. "We were able to monitor the catch. We were able to protect the fish. We are encouraged by the way the system worked."

Jensen said the rate of catch and the early closure of the fishery should not have any impact on next year's striped-bass fishing.

"That's the beauty of the quota system," Jensen said. "We were able to deal with this year's quota, and now we can deal with next year's quota on its own merits."

Quotas and dates for next season have not been finalized.

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