It's all over but the shouting, and we can expect an awful lot of that.
Maryland's recreational rockfish season was great while it lasted, but it didn't last long enough to satisfy fishermen who had been denied their sport for five years. Many only got a taste of the action; those who decided to wait until the opening rush subsided didn't get that.
Yesterday's finale was a madhouse. Observers report it was more crowded than opening day. The rock deserved all the attention.
Catches were good. Many who didn't get their limit of two kept fishing until dark, realizing they might not get another chance for a year -- unless a highly controversial and questionable brief spring season is implemented.
DNR closed the season at 8 o'clock last night after just 10 days of fishing. It was originally scheduled to last for 36 days, but non-charterboat anglers quickly approached their quota of 318,750 pounds.
Charterboats are also nearing their 112,500-pound quota, which likewise will mean a premature close -- probably by week's end -- despite a reduction in their creel limit from five to two. Obviously, commercial fishermen face the same situation when their season opens next month. The Potomac River Fisheries Commission will shut down that fishery for sports and charterboats Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., and a close is expected to be imminent in the District of Columbia. Officials in D.C. said their fishing schedule would match that of Maryland.
Maybe 318,750 pounds sounded like a lot of fish, but it wasn't when one considers that the rock averaged nearly 6.5 pounds each. That figures out to only about 50,000 individual rock divided between possibly the same number of anglers.
Curiously, DNR is getting most of the flak. If those doing the griping would only cool down enough to evaluate the situation, it would be obvious the department had no choice.
We demanded a season restricted enough to put top priority on protection of our basic stock. So did DNR, which, after meticulous planning, implemented guidelines conservative enough to prevent overfishing, and also to meet the strict guidelines of the Atlantic Coast Marine Fisheries Commission.
DNR lived up to its obligations while giving us some fishing. Let's not look a gift horse in the mouth; instead be thankful for opportunity enjoyed, short-lived as it was.
Those who complain that charterboats can continue fishing, and that commercial fishermen will still get their turn, must realize all seasons were based on a quota system. Moreover, the law dictated that all segments of the fishery had to be involved in its reopening.
In some sectors of the bay yesterday, charterboaters were harassed by sports fishermen who cut off their lines and shouted obscenities in protest of continued fishing by charters. That's bush league.
Elsewhere, Baltimorean Bob Dobart won $4,500 for a sixth place finish in the $175,000 BASS Master Maryland Invitational fished on the Potomac. It is the highest finish ever in BASS competition for the local man who promotes the annual Bass Show at Timonium Fairgrounds.
Dobart checked in 31 pounds, 5 ounces of bass. Don Leach of Comanche, Okla., won $14,000 and a $20,000 bass rig for 37 pounds, 1 ounce taken in Nanjemoy Creek. Tom Fouche of Frederick won $2,200 for a 16th place finish.