Reports of dead rockfish turning up in alarming numbers in the Chesapeake Bay last week apparently are off the mark, according to the Department of Natural Resources, which is investigating spotty fish kills.
Pete Jensen, director of DNR's Tidewater Fisheries, said Friday that a report of a DNR "pound net sampling in the lower Chesapeake" that found 98 percent of the rockfish afflicted with a bacterial infection were inaccurate.
"What happened was that a [private] pound-netter down there called us because he thought 90 percent of his catch was infected and had bad color," said Jensen. "This morning [Friday] he called us back to say that that one group of fish had been replaced by another healthy group of different size and color."
The bacterial infection, which was determined to be aeromonos, Jensen said, is not an unusual occurrence in rockfish, which also can be infected with the bacteria vibrio.
"Those two, along with a virus, Edwardi, are not uncommon in rockfish," Jensen said, "and what we are seeing appears to be a normal complement of bacteria and viral organisms. The pound-netter's report, which we were very glad to have received, appears to have been a very isolated incident."
DNR has overflown the bay to check on reports that an unusual number of dead rockfish have been seen floating in Maryland waters.
"What we have seen," Jensen said, "appears to be a normal summer kill."
Each summer, when water temperatures rise, Jensen said, the number of dead rockfish seen by boaters and fishermen increases.
"Some of the dead fish may have been discarded from pound nets, others may have died as the result of being hooked and released, and of course still others will have died from disease,"
DNR's proposal to allow 10 netters in the lower bay to set drift gill nets with multiple strands of monofilament has been approved by the state, with a suggestion that the number of netters be set at eight.
Jensen said Friday that DNR has initiated its study of the effectiveness of multifilament nets and possible by-catch mortality.
Jensen said the findings will be analyzed before regulations are proposed for next year.