As a child growing up in Pasadena, George Bentz could always count on one thing whenever he and his father went fishing in the Chesapeake Bay.
"The rockfish were abundant out there," Mr. Bentz recalled. "There was no control, and you could take as many as you wanted to."
But that laissez faire attitude eventually led to a major depletion in the rockfish population. The fate of the rockfish and the future of Maryland blue crabs has inspired Mr. Bentz and Joseph
Spiegel to start a North Anne Arundel County chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Maryland.
"We didn't know we were hurting them until it was too late," said Mr. Bentz, president of the Lake Shore chapter. "The CCA wants to stop this and help control it."
The chapter's first meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Lake Shore Volunteer Fire Department. The meetings are to take place every fourth Thursday.
Maryland is the 13th state to have CCA chapters; the Pasadena chapter is the ninth.
The organization was started in Texas in 1977, when 14 fishermen decided to protest the depletion of redfish and spotted sea trout. The organization has spread across the Gulf of Mexico and up the East Coast.
"This is for the betterment of everybody," said Mr. Spiegel, who is the vice president. "We want everybody to have a share in this win-win situation."
Mr. Bentz said he was inspired by an Oct. 15, 1995, Sun editorial cartoon titled "A Brief History of World Commercial Fishing." One panel showed one boat floating atop countless fish in 1900. The next panel showed many boats searching for one lonely fish.
"It's a hell of a picture that explains a lot," Mr. Bentz said. "It's really worth a thousand words."
Mr. Spiegel cited a recent Environmental Protection Agency study that stated about 40 percent of the nation's estuaries were depleted or too polluted to support fish.
Although recent moratoriums on rockfish and American shad have allowed the two species to spawn and increase, Mr. Spiegel questioned the need for bans.
"We don't want to have to go to the extreme of a moratorium," Mr. Spiegel said. "We feel we can work to the point where we don't need a moratorium."
Mr. Spiegel said one of the goals of the chapter is to educate local and state legislators about the benefits of a thriving underwater habitat. That's why the chapter already has outlined several objectives, including support of a consistent crab management plan for Maryland and Virginia and prohibition of haul seining, which uses a fishing net to drag the bay floor, destroying young fish and vegetation.
"The CCA is a vehicle to express the views, the concerns, the needs, and the wants for recreational fisherman and everyone else," he said. "The CCA can get involved with legislators and influence legislators so that equitable and even controls are applied."
Mr. Bentz said the conservation effort is not local.
"It's more than a county need," he said. "It's a national need."
For more information about the chapter, call Mr. Bentz at 255-3678 or Mr. Spiegel at 974-4628.