By all accounts, the opening weekend of the rockfish season in Maryland will be a wondrous four-day affair after five years of prohibition on fishing for these striped bass in state waters. But what may happen during the five-week season remains a mystery.
"Everybody is whooped up about it, and everybody is ready to try it," said Harold Griffith, manager of Sandy's Place in Crisfield. "And they need a boost, because they have had a little bit of an off-season.
"What I can hear around here is that everybody is booked up the first weekend at least."
The first weekend, starting Friday and running through the Columbus Day holiday on Monday, is shaping up as a "tremendous" fishing effort, said William P. Jensen, director of fisheries for the Department of Natural Resources' Tidewater Administration.
The state's 350,000 recreational fishermen are expected to take part in the opening of the fishery, Jensen said, and the charter-boat industry is experiencing an incredible boost.
"The five-fish limit for charter boats does seem to be attracting an unusually large number of people signing up to use their captain or charter license," Jensen said. "We are up over 400 now, and we had not anticipated that number signing up."
The increase in charter-boat activity has some captains worried that the early catch will be so great that the season will be cut short.
The rockfish allocation for the charter-boat segment of the fishery is 112,500 pounds and five fish per customer per day. The recreational allocation is 318,750 pounds, and the daily limit is two fish per day. The minimum size allowed for both is 18 inches, with a 36-inch maximum.
At 400 boats and, say, 1,600 customers per day, the charter-boat allocation could be caught in less than six days if the average catch weighs 2.5 pounds.