"Bob," said Capt. George Pernant, "I want to know where all the croaker go and why they don't come back when they are legal size.

"Deale used to be the croaker capital of the Chesapeake Bay. People used to come down here in the afternoon and fish until after midnight catching croaker. What happened to them?"

I said, "George, that would be a good project for the DNR (Department of Natural Resources), although most of them probably wouldn't know. But I'll ask them."

Each year, we become inundated with 3- to9-inch juvenile Atlantic croaker, or hardheads, that enter the bay in the spring and torment anglers bottom fishing for perch or other bottom-dwellers.

The problem is that next year, when the fish would be legal size, they go somewhere else, or they are caught by commercial netters before they can return.

Many of us would like to know what happens to the small hardhead.

Until my wife caught her first cobia last week, I considered the croaker the best eating fish in theChesapeake. Now, I must put it second to the cobia, but it is still excellent table fare.


Fishing in some places is about as hot as last week's weather.

The upper bay has received its summer shipment of bluefish, and the perch still have been giving a good accounting of themselves.

Earlier this week, we made a nice catch of perch on Belvidere Shoals and some of the lumps along the channel. Those looking for catfish are going to have to go north, where the salinityis lower. Norfolk spot is biting all over the place.

Belvidere Shoals, Podickery Point, Hacketts Bar and Tollys Bar are a few of the hot spots, but you can find them scattered all over. Currently, most of the bluefish are on the eastern side of the bay, from the Bay Bridge to Swan Point.

The Deale/Chesapeake Beach/Tilghman Island area has been running red hot or ice cold. Tuesday, for example, many of the bluefish anglers caught their limit. Wednesday, the blues were veryhard to find.

Part of the problem is that there still are very few people fishing. I can't believe that last weekend I had many perch lumps all to myself. It was like fishing on a weekday.

The Spanishmackerel have arrived in the Deale area. They are mixed with the bluefish but want a much faster bait.

One expert said that if you were catching bluefish, you were trolling too slowly for mackerel.

The Solomons area has a good selection of bluefish, Norfolk spot, and fair fishing for sea trout and flounder. The bluefish are in the Holler, the spot are in the Patuxent River, flounder are at the mouth of the river and the trout are on some of the rocky areas.

There are some persistent rumors that more than a few legal hardheads are being caught near the mouth of the Patuxent in the evening.


The Governor's Committee to review the role of the state of Maryland in oyster fisheries management has sent its report to the governor. AlthoughMaryland's oyster industry is in dire shape, the committee did not recommend a moratorium on the harvest of oysters.

It did recommend the following:

* Encourage both the enhancement of the public oyster fishery and the development of a private fishery.

* Continue toenhance the public fishery through the repletion program, but insistthat an increasing share of its costs be borne by the public fishery.

* Increase the public fishery's knowledge of oyster pathology, ecology and markets.

* Develop and enforce standard weights, measures and minimum quality both to protect consumers and enhance demand.

* Strengthen the public fishery's role in assessing oyster stocks,monitoring production and evaluating the quality of oyster beds.

The report will raise a few hackles. It appears to offend both those who wanted the status quo and those who wanted to close the fishery. Probably a good report.

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

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