Anglers who have enjoyed expanded seasons for rockfish since the species was declared recovered a couple of years ago by federal regulators may now facerestrictions on a segment of the catch.
Rockfish of 28 inches or greater size are being overfished, according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which oversees fisheries that share the coastal waters of multiple states.
A 28 percent reduction in the catch of those fish is needed to correct the problem, according to the ASMFC's technical striped bass committee.
Rockfish (striped bass) of that size are breeders that migrate along the Atlantic Coast, and states from North Carolina to Maine have scheduled public meetings to explain the issue and gather anglers' options.
Maryland will hold its meeting tonight at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Tawes State Office Building on Taylor Avenue in Annapolis.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, the ASMFC is considering several options to protect the breeders. They include changes in seasons and creel limits, a one-fish creel for the Atlantic Coast recreational fishery, proportional reductions, quota allocation reductions for the commercial and trophy fisheries and slot (variable size) limits.
"Interestingly, we obviously catch a fair number of those bigger fish in the spring trophy season," said DNR Fisheries Service director Eric Schwaab. "But we also catch those fish again later in the fall season when some of the larger fish can migrate back into the bay."
Schwaab said the spring recreational season and the late fall recreational and commercial seasons could be "targets to focus on."
There also is the possibility, he said, that size limits on Chesapeake Bay and in Maryland's Atlantic coastal waters could be raised two inches to help build "a larger pool of bigger fish over time."
Maryland's focus may have to be on the Chesapeake Bay fishery, Schwaab said, because the coastal recreational and commercial fisheries are relatively small, and cutting those catches by 25 percent would result in a statewide reduction of only about 2 percent.
Youth waterfowl day
Saturday is Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day in Maryland, a special, one-day season that is part of a national effort by federal and state wildlife agencies to increase participation in waterfowl hunting.
The season is open for ducks, coots and mergansers, with a five-duck limit and one additional teal allowed.
To qualify, a youth hunter must be 15 or younger, possess a valid junior hunting license, a Maryland migratory waterfowl stamp and a migratory bird harvest information permit (HIP).
Each youth must be accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 or older. Adults cannot carry weapons while in the field, but they may call waterfowl, help with decoys and retrieve downed birds.
Upper Chesapeake Bay: Chummers continue to catch large numbers of rockfish at the Triple Buoys near the mouth of the Chester River and at Swan Point Bar, but most are under the 18-inch minimum. Hodges Bar and Gayle's Shoals also have been productive. Bluefish are still roaming as far north as Worton Point, but should be moving south soon.
Middle Chesapeake Bay: Bottom fishing for spot and croaker is falling off as the water temperature cools, but the mouth of the Choptank River is still a good bet, as is the hard bottom from Thomas Point Light to Hacketts. Chummers have had sporadic action for rockfish at the Gas Docks, the Hill and the Diamonds. Small blues remain abundant and feeding on the top while the tide is running fast.
Lower Chesapeake Bay: Bluefish are scattered through the area, but blues to six pounds have been reported at the Southwest Middle Grounds. Chumming continues to produce rockfish at Point No Point Light and from Buoy 72A to the Middle Grounds. Sea trout, blues and stripers in Tangier Sound.
Ocean City: The red drum run continues in the surf along with increasing numbers of sea trout, small blues and kingfish. Flounder action slow in the back bays. Some sea trout at the Route 50 bridge and tautog and sheepshead at the jetties. Trollers doing well for yellowfin tuna from the 30 fathom line to Washington Canyon and chunkers have been hitting them at Baltimore Canyon.
Pub Date: 9/30/99