No shortage of issues on fishing front


We will get to the female crab who apparently declined to do what comes naturally in a moment, but first a bit on Susquehanna shad that obviously are doing their thing.

Then, there are such other issues as bait restrictions in the Susquehanna, boat fishing below Conowingo Dam, and herring dipping farther downriver.

Many Conowingo catwalk anglers won't like the Department of Natural Resources' rockfish-saving proposal to drastically curtail bait options from June 15 through Sept. 15. During that time, DNR suggests that all artificial baits be banned, and the only others allowed would be worms, doughball varieties, prepared scent baits and chicken livers, all of which are suitable for catfish and carp.

If the menu preferences of wild rock are anything like those of their landlocked counterparts, perhaps the chicken liver entree should be reconsidered. That's what many anglers intentionally use for the landlocked variety.

DNR's goal is to ban lures that will attract stripers, many of which studies indicate die when released near the dam because of a combination of stress and non-saline water habitat. This proposal is one of several to be aired Wednesday at a 6 p.m. public hearing at Harford County Library, Bel Air.

Another rock-associated proposal also would affect fishing for shad and other species below the dam. It recommends that boat fishing be banned in the quarter-mile stretch between Rowland Island and the dam.

This would practically create a sanctuary. Not many fish are taken from shore along that stretch -- and incidentally, it also would eliminate a safety hazard. Knowledgeable boatmen can handle their craft in those turbulent waters, but some novices have lost their lives in the floodgate and turbine turbulence.

Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also is considering closing that area to boating as a safety precaution.

Aimed primarily at troubled shad and herring is a proposal to ban dipnetting and snagging upstream from the mouth of Deer Creek. This could also be a rockfish-saver.

DNR proposes not to reopen shad fishing until it accomplishes its targeted goal of stock recovery to the tune of 500,000 white shad in the river. That could be a long time in coming, and when accomplished, restrictions would be implemented to limit catches to 25 percent of overall migratory stocks of both herring and shad.

Last year's surveys indicated 125,574 white shad were present -- about 25 percent of the goal, but about 25 times the migratory population of 5,362 in 1980. Maybe we have turned the corner.

Another DNR management plan involving waters below the Susquehanna area concerns crabs, a species enduring ever-increasing sports and commercial pressure. DNR is considering a reduction in the non-commercial catch to one bushel a day. Currently it is one and two bushels a day -- the latter for licensed sports crabbers. No further restrictions are suggested for commercial crabbers.

This year's crab forecast is for a commercial catch of about 48 million pounds, basically the same as last year, though we might get earlier and bigger crabs this year -- and a slight overall increase.

Meanwhile, Jim Casey, DNR's crab project leader, is checking out a 9 1/4 -inch female crab turned over to him by Rock Hall waterman Don Pierce. That's big, but the most intriguing thing is that her apron was not fully developed, which suggests she had never mated.

Females mate only once during their lives, and it is generally assumed they do so by the time they reach the legal minimum of 5 inches -- and that's why we're allowed to keep those of that size.

Casey refers to aged virgin crabs (this one was probably 3 years old) as "merry widows." Occasionally a female doesn't respond to overtures of male crabs, Casey explained.

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