Department of Natural Resources officials, faced with a number of dead rockfish floating in the upper bay, are pushing through an emergency regulation to deal with the problem.
The regulation would be aimed at anglers who use live eels for bait.
Last year, after the rockfish season ended, the Striped Bass Advisory Board recommended the state prohibit eels as bait during non-rockfish seasons.
Striped bass often take the eel deep into its gut before an angler knows he has a fish on his line. If the angler attempts to retrieve his hook, the result is often a dead rockfish.
The DNR let it go at the time but is making amends now.
Rockfish are having a tough time. Water temperatures are in the mid- to upper 70s, which means it is less saturated with oxygen and leads to more stresson the fish. Further, hook and release studies indicate that the lower the salinity, the higher the mortality of fish that have been hooked and released.
So if an angler is using live eels, the fish has little chance of surviving.
Pete Jensen, director of Fisheries forthe Tidewater Administration, says the DNR has suspended tagging operations because of the water conditions. And these operations were conducted by biologists who know how to handle the fish.
The StripedBass Advisory Board urged the state to increase the number of DNR police in the areas where the dead fish have been spotted.
There is another side to this coin. Although there is no excuse to fish with live eels this time of year, there is no call to quit fishing because you might catch a rockfish while trolling for bluefish or bottom fishing for white perch.
Jensen said that as long as you have an increasing rockfish population, you will have a by-catch. The appropriate action is to release the rockfish as quickly and gently as possible.
If the fish swallows the hook, don't attempt to retrieve it. Cut it off. The fish is equipped with a marvelous capability of either dissolving the hook or throwing it.
The DNR plans an education program for anglers, but I think most fishermen know what to do and not do.If you are caught fishing live eels I hope they take your boat and lock you up. There is no reason for fishing with live eels in our partof the Chesapeake.
There are no cobia here -- bluefish will chop them in pieces. Anyone fishing a live eel is trying to catch a rockfish and is likely to kill it!
Fishing is improving and severalof the fishing centers say that charters are beginning to pick up a little. The lower bay is blessed with bluefish from Point Lookout up to Solomons. Hooper Island Light area and the Targets have been hot spots of late. The Patuxent is the site of excellent Norfolk spot fishing.
Be sure to take your bloodworms or stop by Bunky's Charters in Solomons for bait and boat rental. A few trout are being caught at the Tube, or old natural gas plant.
A few black drum are still being caught in the Deale/Chesapeake Beach/Tilghman Island area. Bluefish have been hot and cold. Some days the chummers are the winners, other days the fish commit suicide and hit anything that is trolled pasttheir nose. Or maybe they only want a skinny red hose trolled almoston the surface.
Good spot fishing continues in the Choptank River.
Upper bay fishing continues to be 90 percent bottom fishing perch and catfish, and 10 percent trolling for bluefish at the mouth of the Chester River, Swan Point and along the edges of Brewerton Channel. Most of the fish caught trolling will be rockfish, so please be gentle.