Early last week, William P. Jensen, director of fisheries for the Tidewater Administration, under the Department of Natural Resources, said that the fall recreational rockfish season probably will run its full course, including the first three weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) of November.
"We think it will," Jensen said. "But that also assumes that the fishing pressure will continue to drop off a bit as the weather cools."
Jensen said that when DNR completes a review of catch data (due at the end of last week), fisheries will be able to better analyze where Maryland stands on its allocation of stripers.
But assuming that the season does run its full course, following ++ are some tips that might help your fishing -- whether casting, trolling or fly casting.
At this time of year, you are likely to find stripers feeding on the surface, their activity marked by diving birds.
The first few casts with Atom poppers or smallish spoons are apt to bring in fish in the 14- to 16-inch range. But before giving up and moving on, tie on a larger spoon, say a No. 18 Tony, and dress it with a 6-inch twister tail or striper killer pork rind. Cast again into the breaking fish and let the spoon sink through the smaller fish before beginning your retrieve.
Smaller fish probably will bump the big spoon as it drops, but be patient and don't set the hook until you get a solid bang. Larger stripers often are feeding beneath the smaller fish on the surface.
Rich Novotny, executive director of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association, likes to change his approach for fall rockfish once the water begins to cool quickly in late October and early November.
Instead of the smaller bucktails and spoons used early in the striper season, Novotny goes to 8/0 and 10/0 bucktails, 6-inch sassy shads and 9/0 Crippled Alewives when trolling. He says the big baits allow only the larger fish, those over 24 inches, to take them.
Novotny likes to use a 60-pound test leader between reeled Monel line and the first swivel, a 30-inch length of 25-pound test for a drop sinker and an 18- to 20-foot leader to the spoon or bucktail. The drop weight, of course, will be variable depending on the depth fished.
To pick the weight, select your trolling speed to keep you moving at 4 to 5 knots over the bottom. Tide, current and wind will make your rpms different in each situation. The idea is to get your weight to bounce on it a couple of times and then to increase speed slightly so that it bumps only when the bottom rises slightly.
Unless you are willing to cast your fly line into a mass of feeding fish, fly casting for stripers should be limited to areas where the bottom changes depth or there are other underwater structures to attract fish. Some potentially good areas are the Bay Bridge pilings and rock piles (you might find room in midweek), and flats edged by drop-offs of 5 or more feet such as those at Thomas Point, Hacketts Bar and Greenbury Point.
Flies should include poppers, large minnows, and Lefty's Deceivers. Be certain to take along a variety of colors.
Best choice of lines is 9 weight forward floating -- although a sink tip might be especially good along the drops.
* If your boat is not equipped with a speedometer, you can determine your speed by running any of the state-maintained half-mile courses (Apr. 15 through Oct. 15) or between any two buoys or landmarks that are close to a half-mile apart and applying the following formula:
Run the half-mile distance at a constant speed and time the passage in seconds. Then divide 1,800 by the total number of seconds it took to complete the passage. The result, when doubled, produces your speed in knots (1.15 miles per hours equals 1 knot).
* On Thursday, measurement and registration will open for the J/24 World Championships at the Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis. Racing will begin next Sunday in the Chesapeake Bay off the mouth of the Severn River.
* Hurricane Andrew demolished the U.S. Sailing Center in Coconut Grove, Fla., destroying buildings, boats and docking facilities. US Sailing (formerly the United States Yacht Racing Union) is seeking donations of materials or contributions of money to help rebuild the center. To help, contact U.S. Sailing, Box 209, Newport, R.I. 02840.