Could it be? Rockfish in the spring!

Although not set in stone, conditions are more than just favorable for Maryland recreational fishermen to catch a trophy rockfish this spring --possibly even a record.

Monday evening, the state Department of Natural Resources presented a preliminary proposal to the Striped Bass Advisory Board that would open a very conservative spring striped bass fishery.

The advisory board chewed on the proposal, tried it on two or three different ways, and in the end, passed a modified version by an 8-2 vote.

The spring striped bass season approved by the advisory board would runMay 1 to 13, with a minimum size of 45 inches. All fishing would have to be done south of the Bay Bridge, and anglers are permitted to keep one striped bass.

From May 13 until the end of the month, the minimum size would drop to between 28 and 36 inches -- probably 32 or 34 inches. Anglers would still be limited to keeping only one fish.

The DNR will set the minimum size. Experts will go back to their computers and select the size limit that would keep the season open forat least two weeks but still permit a few fish to be taken home. They also must pick a size that will get the OK from the Atlantic StatesMarine Fisheries Commission, which has already approved a trophy season for Maryland with a 45-inch minimum size.

The likelihood of catching a 45-inch striper is not great, but it isn't impossible. I grabbed an old Fishing In Maryland magazine out of the bookcase and noted that 13 had been caught and registered in 1975. The true number isprobably two or three times that, but it's still only a drop in the striped bass bucket.

Lowering the size limit to 32 or 34 inches makes landing and keeping a trophy a distinct possibility. The DNR wants to put a cap on the spring fishery at 250,000 pounds, which is wellbelow the ASMFC guidelines.

Catching fish in the spring season will have no impact on your bag limit for the fall season.

Next, theDNR will prepare the spring striped bass regulation and obtain ASMFCand AELR (Administrative Executive Legislative Review committee) approval. It's probably not as easy as it sounds, but I think most people will like the regulation. No one in the audience at Monday's meeting spoke against the proposal.

I think most people wanted to open the season for the big rockfish, but everyone wondered how to avoid catching too many fish. Pete Jensen, director of fisheries, or someone on his staff came up with the idea of one fish per person for the spring season.

The spring trophy rockfish season will have a favorable impact on Maryland's recreational fishing industry. I know many people -- some of them my customers -- who have not fished the last few years because they wanted to catch bigger fish than we had to offer. They may not take home a trophy, but they no longer have a reason foravoiding the Chesapeake.

The advisory board also recommended banning the use of live eels for bait during the period that striped bassfishing is closed because striped bass often swallow the eel. Attempting to release a deeply hooked striped bass can result in a dead striped bass.

By the way, the commercial fishermen are donating theirallocation of the spring fishery to the recreational and charter boat fishermen.

Monday's advisory board meeting was the most productive to date. I'm not going to get into who voted or did not vote for what. No one gets everything he wants for his constituents; you work the best compromise you can get.

Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-licensed charter boat captain from Pasadena. His column appears every Friday and Sunday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.

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