"They're closing it down, Cap," says Capt. Ed Darwin.
"They're what?" says I.
"They're closing the season down for the recreational fishermen Sunday," he says. "Our catch goes to two per person, but no one knows for how long."
"Why? No one's catching any rockfish."
"That's not what they say," says Ed.
"Let me get ahold of Pete Jensen and see what's going on, and I'll get back to you," I say.
We both knew that no one but Ed was catching any rockfish, and I'm not going to tell you what his technique was.
The above conversation took place Thursday evening. Of course, my Friday column, which said there was no chance of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shortening the season, was written Thursday morning before I went to the boat show. Thus, on Thursday evening, I had to run down what I certainly hoped was a wild rumor.
Pete Jensen, director of Fisheries for the DNR, was gone for the weekend, his wife said, and none of the other biologists I knew would say anything. I finally reached Paul Massicott, administrator for the Tidewater Administration.
Paul said that due to the enormous fishing pressure, the probable catch based on exit interviews and the size of the fish -- the DNR had estimated three pounds, but the actual average is running closer to four or five -- the department had decided to close the recreational striped bass season early. The charter boat daily catch limit would be lowered to two fish per person, and the DNR would study the charter boat catch reports to see how much longer their season might last.
I told Paul that if the catch data reflected activity between the Bay Bridge and Brewerton Channel, then his data were wrong; very few rockfish are being caught by anyone, including charter boat captains. I don't know of any that have gotten zipped, but many of the catches can be counted on one hand, and those are by captains who have the right equipment and know what they are doing.
Paul said the DNR could reopen the season if it made a mistake, but for now it was being cautious.
I can't say what's happening elsewhere in the state -- they may have bailed rockfish in the Choptank or the Susquehanna. But I can tell you this: the actual catch from the Bay Bridge to slightly above the Brewerton Channel in no way could have caused the DNR's action. Either big catch results came in from elsewhere in the state or the DNR monitoring system is flawed -- and I suspect the latter.
NEAT BOAT PARAPHERNALIA
Today is the last day of the U.S. Powerboat Show, and my list of neat things to see there may consume the whole day.
I dearly love Red and Rose Royal and their hand-made fishing and hunting knives. I took my one-year-old Red Royal 7 -inch fillet knife to the show for "show and tell," and it was difficult to tell it from a new one. How many of your knives can take a beating for a year and still look like new?
And speaking of knives, be certain to check out the Spyderco booth for the Clipit folding knives and a new serrated edge knife called the Deck Mate. I used a larger model they call their Kitchen Rambo as a bait knife all year and was very impressed.
Rova Brand has a solution to odor pollution, whether it be in shoes or boots, carpet, litter boxes or anywhere. The product is called ODOR/GO and I plan to test it on my musty smelling charter boat. A rather tame product for Russ Stannard, the "king of gimmicks that work."
SSI makes very attractive large coolers that would fit well on large boats. Just for the purpose of comparison, the bottom of the line is 186 quarts, while the largest Igloo is 165 quarts. From every angle, I think the SSI unit would be the better choice.
Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-registered charter boat captain from Pasadena.
His Outdoors column appears every Friday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.