Armed with information, anglers prepare for the start of another rockfish season


With the fall 1992 rockfish season but a month a way, it's surprising how many fishermen do not know what's happening. I had three questions Monday regarding creel limit and whether tags will be required. The following is the most up-to-date release from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and should answer everyone's questions on the 1992 fall striped bass or rockfish season.

The fall season opens Oct. 1 and runs through Oct. 31. It will pick up again Nov. 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22, for a total of 40 days. The DNR will monitor the harvest to assure that anglers do not exceed their 1992 allocations.

Minimum and maximum size for the fall fishery is 18 and 36 inches. Creel limits are one fish per person per day on a recreational fishing boat and two fish per day on a charter boat. Creel limits are based on the allocation for the user groups. The recreational anglers allocation is 695,300 pounds; the allocation for charter boat anglers is 245,000.

l,.5l No tags will be required for the fall fishery. The rockfish stamp, which will cost each rockfish angler $3, will go into effect Jan. 1, 1993.

Live bait will be permitted for catching rockfish during the fall season. Live eels are often very effective. Soft and peeler crabs work well, but are sometimes hard to find in October.

Charter boats are rapidly booking up for the fall season. If you plan to fish on a fall rockfish charter, don't hesitate booking much longer.

* Tuesday, the DNR will hold a public hearing on its proposed sea trout regulation. The regulation would become effective next year and limit anglers to five sea trout per day, with a minimum size of 12 inches.

The proposed regulation is based on an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Weakfish (sea trout) Fishery Management Plan. The plan proposes that fishermen reduce sea trout fishing mortality by 52 percent.

Sea trout are caught by a small percentage of Maryland anglers because of their range in Maryland's waters. Lower bay, Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds and the Honga River pretty much covers the area inhabited by trout during their summer stay in the Chesapeake.

Trout are also caught off Maryland's coast by both commercial and recreational anglers. The commercial sea trout fishery in Maryland's portion of the bay is almost non-existent. A few fish may be caught in pound nets, but there is no directed gill net fishery for sea trout.

Although only a small component of Maryland's overall fishery, the sea trout is very important to the charter boat industry. Sea trout is the primary target of the Crisfield fishing fleet and an important species for Potomac and other lower-bay fishermen.

Limiting the creel limit to five 12-inch fish per person will cause a severe setback on an already declining industry. Current recreational fishing regulations are 10-inch minimum size and no creel limit. Virginia's new regulation (since July 1) is 12-inch minimum and 15 fish per day.

The ASMFC recommends either a 12-inch minimum and 5 fish per day or 13-inch minimum and 10 fish per day.

The majority of the trout caught in the lower bay are 10 to 12 inchers; not many 13 inchers either like our waters or can get past the Virginia netters. I plan to suggest to the DNR Tuesday evening that Maryland should set a 12-inch, 10-fish regulation for the Chesapeake and a 13-inch, 10-fish regulation for the ocean side.

The hearing will be at 6 p.m. at the Agriculture Department on Harry S. Truman Parkway off Riva Road. Come put in your two cents.

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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