I stopped by a buddy’s house the other day as he was poring over data points in preparation for a duck hunt, comparing date-and-time weather fronts, changes in barometric pressure and wind patterns to success. He’s meticulous about that kind of thing. Me, not so much; recently, my recollections of time spent on the water and afield lean far more toward the experiential.
For whatever reason, when I left I began to think not of pintails and mallards but of the fall run of gray trout we used to enjoy. Walking through downtown Annapolis as the wind howled, two memories stood out: the first was when stripers would congregate at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. One of my clients decked a fine striper of 33 inches, and sticking out of its oversized maw was a vibrant 12-inch sea trout.
The second recollection was the time I shared with an ancient mariner on an ancient boat a school of sea trout suspended tight to the bottom in about 50 feet of water off one of our bay bridge’s pilings. That time tandem feather jigs in two-toned yellow and chartreuse hooked big tide runners pushing 8 pounds.
Hoping to learn of a good gray bite somewhere, the other day I pinged several charter boat captains and sport anglers who spend a lot of time on the water. I asked if they’d hooked any sea trout this year. Not a one had caught a single trout, which jibed with my lone effort. I too had seen what I would’ve assumed in the past would be sea trout below a school of rockfish, but I caught nothing but small rock.
There was a time when I’d look forward to the cold days of November, primetime sea trout fishing on the Chesapeake. Yet, despite cuts to creel and other conservation efforts in place for years, those days are gone, and sadly the prolonged drought continues.
FISHERY COUNCIL FEEDBACK: Most anglers have at least a working understanding of the importance menhaden to the health of striped bass and other marine animals. Yet, several forage species — herring, anchovies, sardines, chub (tinker) mackerel, and sand eels — are also critical food for many gamefish, yet many of those don’t fall under any tight management regime.
In recent years, some commercial fishers have begun to target specifically these unmanaged forage species to meet the increasing global demand for fishmeal, fish oil and bait. Tinker mackerel, a favorite food of pelagic fish such as tunas and billfish, is a prime example. It has historically been taken as by-catch by the squid fishery. More than two years ago, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) took initial steps to deal with the overall issue.
At that time, Micheal Luisi of Maryland’s fisheries service was the council’s vice-chairman. He commented, “the council is acknowledging (the) importance of ecosystem-based management and helps put a backstop on species we know little about.” Now the MAFMC seeks public feedback on a draft amendment considers adding Atlantic chub mackerel as a “stock in the fishery” in the Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan. The amendment considers potential catch limits, accountability measures, and other conservation and management measures required for stocks in the fishery.
Five public hearings will be held along the Atlantic coast between Dec. 3 and Jan.14, 2019, including one in Maryland (see below). Written comments will be accepted through Jan.18, 2019. To read more about the amendment and the management alternatives, visit www.mafmc.org/actions/chub-mackerel-amendment, or contact Julia Beaty at email@example.com or (302) 526-5250.
Public Hearing Schedule: Dec. 4, Berlin, 7-7:30 p.m. Worcester County Library, Ocean Pines Branch, 11107 Cathell Road, Berlin, 21811; Dec. 3, Virginia Beach, 6-7:30 p.m. Hilton Garden Inn, Virginia Beach Oceanfront, 3315 Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach, 23451.
Dec. 10: Pasadena Sportfishing Group meeting. Doors open at 6 p.m., meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Free to the public. Earleigh Heights VFC, 161 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park.
Dec. 11-Jan. 26: Duck Season, third split. Check DNR website for regulations.
Dec. 14-Feb. 2: AP Canada Goose season, third split. Check DNR website for regulations.
Dec. 18-Jan. 12, 2019: Dove Season, third split. Check DNR website for regulations.
Jan. 12: Frederick Saltwater Anglers’ 10th annual Fishing Expo. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Vendors, seminars, food. Frederick County (MD) Fairgrounds.
Jan. 19: Hero on the Waters Fishing Show, 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Odenton Fire Hall, 1425 Annapolis Road, Odenton, MD 21113.
Jan. 24-27: Progressive “Baltimore Boat Show.” Baltimore Convention Center. Tickets and additional information at baltimoreboatshow.com.
Feb. 23: MSSA Annapolis’ Saltwater Fishing Expo, Elks Club, Annapolis.
Feb. 23-24: Lefty Kreh’s Tiefest. Times and new location to be announced soon on their Facebook page.
Chris Dollar writes about the outdoors for The Capital. Contact him with items for his column or the outdoors calendar at firstname.lastname@example.org