Too many complications kill June rockfish season


Had you hoped for a June rockfish season this year, you're out of luck.

Striped Bass Advisory Board representatives of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association, the recreational fishermen, the tackle and bait shops and Chesapeake Bay Foundation all voted against the idea. This tied the four votes in favor (two charter boat and two commercial representatives) and sent it to the Department of Natural Resources for resolution.

The proposal just had too many strikes against it, and I doubt if the DNR had enough time to set up a June season.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) would have required catch monitoring, and the DNR has neither the personnel nor the funding to set up a system just now. The next regularly scheduled rockfish season will begin Oct. 1 and is supposed to run through Oct. 31 and three three-day weekends in November.

I don't know about you, but I am getting more than a little tired of all the politics attached to the poor rockfish. Most of the other states in the ASMFC have a one-fish-per-person-per-day creel limit all year long. I'm ready for that system. In addition, I want live eels banned as bait for rockfish. That way, if you don't know how to catch 'em, you might as well stay home.

At times, live eels make catching rockfish too easy. There are times when you have to go into the cabin to put an eel on your hook because the rockfish will jump into the boat to get it away from you. And then there are times when the rockfish won't touch those slimy critters.


Fishing is still in transition, with the lower bay improving faster.

The first Spanish mackerel has been caught below the mouth of the Patuxent River. The captain who caught it was trolling slow for sea trout and was surprised when the mackerel took the bait. Mackerel have also been seen free-jumping in the Solomons area.

If you get the conditions just right and know what you are doing, you can catch a few legal flounder near the mouth of the Patuxent River. A few 3- to 4-pound bluefish are being caught on trollers. Better catches go to chummers further south.

A few small sea trout have appeared in the Patuxent and some medium-to-large Norfolk spot are still further upriver. Overall, the fishing in the Solomons area is fair to good.

The Tangier Sound has a familiar problem, good numbers of fish but few fishermen. Two- to 4-pound sea trout, flounder, legal and sub-legal hardhead and Norfolk spot make up the bulk of the catches. Two Crisfield-based headboats ran the other day with only three anglers on each boat.

The big news in the middle bay or the Deale/Chesapeake Beach/Tilghman Island area is the buffaloes, big lips, boom-booms, elephants -- or their more common name -- black drum. These giants of the Chesapeake, some running over 80 pounds, have started feeding at James Island, the Stone Rock and Poplar Island. A few roving bluefish are caught daily, as well as many rockfish -- commonly referred to on the radio as throwbacks. A few flounder, spot and hardhead are being caught in the Choptank River.

The upper-middle bay or the area from Poplar Island to the Bay Bridge is populated with a few bluefish and many throwbacks. And the upper bay from the Bay Bridge to Pooles Island has the same mixture plus a few white perch.

Tolchester is providing most of the perch action; small boats are doing well around the Curtis Creek bridge pilings. A few bluefish have been found in the Love Point/mouth of the Chester/Swan Point area.

Bluefish are taking trolled spoons, hose and bucktails, and so are the rockfish. Some anglers think they can keep the rockfish off by using surgical hose, but they are wrong. They might catch a few less than by using a bucktail, but not many.

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

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