Maryland's third fall rockfish season since the lifting of a five-year moratorium opened yesterday without the gold-rush attitude of the past two years -- except at the Bay Bridge, where virtually every pier, piling and rock pile had at least one boat of anglers working it.
But early indications are that fishing everywhere else will increase greatly on the weekend.
Business at area tackle shops has been brisk, charter boat bookings are up after a dismal summer and those who got out early yesterday seemed to have little trouble making their one-fish limit.
Greg Harrison at the Rod n Reel Docks in Chesapeake Beach said that eight charter boats went out yesterday. Through September, on a normal day only one of two charters went out.
"All of them seem to be making their limit, and some are getting some bluefish, too," Harrison said. "This is something the captains have been looking forward to."
At Scheible's Fishing Center in Ridge, near the mouth of the Potomac, only one charter went out, but 10 boats are booked for today and all 15 at the center are booked for tomorrow.
Charter activity is up at Harrison's Chesapeake House on Tilghman Island as well, said Michelle Lednum. "We have seven out today, which is probably a couple more than normal," Lednum said. "The majority [of Harrison's 16 boats] are scheduled for the weekend."
At Sandy Point State Park, which has excellent launch facilities at the west end of the Bay Bridges, there was a crowd yesterday morning, but traffic was not backed up onto Route 50 as it was last year.
Del Johnson, who was helping yesterday at Angler's on Route 50, said anglers were lined up to get their free rockfish permits.
"I have been just sitting here at a table writing out permits," Johnson said. "At the counter, live eels have been doing it, and we have sold out of 9/0 and 7/0 bucktails with a twister.
"I tied some up this morning and those, too, are gone."
At the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, said Ken Lamb, business has been very good for the last few days on spoons, bucktails, rods and reels.
"People are very excited about this, I think," Lamb said. "But it isn't like when they first reopened [in 1990]. Then everything went berserk."
The recreational rockfish season runs through the month of Octoberand will include the first three, three-day weekends of November.
Charter boat customers may catch two fish per day, and other recreational anglers may catch one. The size limit is from 18 to 36 inches.