I’ve slept in worse places. A lot worse. But that was way back in another lifetime when I didn’t have family obligations and wasn’t so soft.
For four hours we watched hundreds of Canada geese loaf across the creek from our boat blind without a care in the world. With 20 minutes of daylight left, they finally got up enough energy to fly, and then to a nearby field for a late-day snack.
Dejected, we picked up the decoys, The awkward silence was broken by the occasional platitudes, such as, “Well, at least we got out,” and, “Man, that was some cool sunset flight, huh?”
It was as unconvincing to us as our feinted spread was to the geese. Utter gibberish and we both knew it. Our egos were summarily bruised.
Then more salt was rubbed into my emotional wound. After my buddy fired up his engine, I reminded him to attach his kill switch. Then the motor cut off. After several minutes of his muffled cursing, I donned a headlamp and walked back to the helm to sus out the situation.
Because it was pitch dark and cold, our temporary predicament nonetheless brought on a full cycle of Plan Bs, Cs, and Ds racing through my head. Hail a tow service? Bug a buddy? Walk up to one of the large estates on this picturesque Eastern Shore creek? Call an Uber?
Failing all of that, I had in reserve snacks, plenty of water, a fine cigar, and the pièce de resistance, a fully-insulated survival suit that could easily pull double duty as a sleeping bag. Thankfully, it never came to that. The problem was a minor hiccup with the ignition switch that we remedied in fairly short order.
It’s funny — not “ha ha” funny — how the mind races when it’s cold and dark, and you have your mind set on a warm fire, fine bourbon and a welcoming bed.
Striper quota transfers
Tuesday, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will meet in Arlington, Virginia, for its winter session with a full slate of topics on the agenda.
Almost all things coastal and Chesapeake Bay fisheries are to get a managerial scrub from commissioners, from lobsters and herrings to eels and dogfish.
Of course, no ASMFC gathering would be complete without discussion, and perhaps action on rockfish (stripers) and menhaden. This meeting is no different.
Last fall, you may recall we learned via the most recent stock assessment update that although rockfish are no longer suffering from overfishing, they remain overfished. Translation: stricter regulations are in fact working, with the sport fishing community leading the way. However, there is still a ton of work left to do.
Now is the time to put the pedal to the metal, not let up on the gas. And given how valuable stripers are, there’s a palpable sense of urgency to do it as quickly as possible. Which makes it all the more puzzling why the ASMFC is even considering allowing commercial quota transfers.
Delaware seems to be driving this train, as the fishery shifts northward. It’s worth noting that historically the ASMFC striper management plan has never allowed commercial quota transfers between jurisdictions. Expert fishery biologists who advise the commission have been averse to it. If this addendum passes, it would be a first.
Also included in the 2022 update was the conclusion that there’s a pretty good chance the striper stock will be rebuilt within the seven-year time frame if fishing mortality is maintained at its current level.
That is a huge “if.” All conservation measures would arguably have to hit on all cylinders. Adopting this addendum puts that at risk.
The public clearly wants to conserve more rockfish. All three of Maryland’s representatives to the ASMFC Striped Bass Advisory Panel voted against this plan. In fact, 14 of the 18 AP members (77%) voted for Option A, which was status quo. Moreover, of the 1,979 total public comments sent into the ASMFC, 1,950 (98%) supported keeping things as they are, which means maintaining Option A.
During our discussion, which was open to anyone with a smartphone or laptop, top-of-mind was the need for public trust and transparency during this rebuilding phase. That, along with sensible regulations, are paramount.
I have no appetite for some fishery managers, when shown this kind of public feedback, respond with: “Well, we’ve had a lot of conversations with other stakeholders who hold a different viewpoint.”
That doesn’t cut it. They ought to weigh in like the rest of us, because those types of back-channel dealings undermine the process.
Our top priority should be the stock’s long-term health. The recreational angling community has made that clear, time and again. Now it’s up to the ASMFC to vote down allowing commercial quota transfers. Anything less jeopardizes this invaluable iconic public resource.
Through Feb. 28: CCA Maryland Pickerel Championship, a catch-photo-release tournament using the iAngler Tournament smartphone app. Register at ccamd.org.
Tuesday: Anglers’ Night at Boatyard Bar & Grill. 6 p.m.-9 p.m. And it’s Lady Angler’s Nite. Connect with fellow lady anglers. All welcome. 400 4th Street, Annapolis.
Feb. 18-19: 30th annual Pasadena Sportfishing Group’s “Fishing Expo.” 8 a.m.-2 p.m. both days. Kurtz’s Beach, Pasadena.
Feb. 25: Saltwater Fishing Expo, hosted by the Annapolis Anglers club. Doors open 8 a.m., runs to 3 p.m. Tackle dealers, guides and seminars. Annapolis Elks Club, Solomons Island Road, Edgewater.
March 18: Fly Fishing and Collectible Show. West Village Commons, Towson Maryland.
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