The 1990 recreational striped bass season is over, the charter boat season ends tomorrow evening and the commercial season will start later this year.
Why was the season so short? Who caught all the fish? How many fish were caught? These are but a few of the questions I'm receiving from both recreational and charter captains. Most have adopted a cynical attitude: "the state did it to us again." I disagree.
I'll admit that I do not have any of the answers, but I have talked to the Department of Natural Resources staff I have known and respected for years. They say that when the smoke clears we can sit down over a beer and perform a postmortem. At this point, all the numbers are not in, but everyone got their share, plus a little more. I still find that hard to believe, but I'll wait until the data is ready.
We all knew that this was to be a very conservative season. Two obvious problems were the extremely warm weather, which brought out more recreational anglers than expected, and the fact that the fish were almost twice the expected size.
Consequently, 318,750 pounds of striped bass didn't go too far for the recreational anglers nor did 112,500 pounds cover all the trips for the charter captains. In fact some of the captains in the lower bay hardly got started before it was over.
The marine police say the recreational and charter captains did a good job of complying with the regulations. During the brief season they checked 26,454 fishermen in 13,400 boats. They counted 4,374 rockfish and issued 111 citations. Most of the citations were for fishing without a license or undersize fish.
Fingers crossed that lessons learned from the 1990 season will be applied to the 1991 season.
* Meanwhile, the 1990 fishing season continues. The marine police say you are permitted to catch and release striped bass, but don't try fishing with live eels. More often than not the striper will swallow the eel and you will end up killing the fish.
White perch fishing in the area is in transition. Normally, by the first week of November the perch have moved onto the harder bars near Podickery Point (near Sandy Point). A few perch have been caught at the mouth of the Magothy and some have been caught from the major upper bay lumps such as Hodges Bar. In the lower bay there is white perch fishing in the Wicomico and Nomini Bay of the Potomac River.
Bluefish are still around in fair to excellent numbers. A few are still above the Bay Bridge, but most of them start around Bloody Point and run south into Virginia. They are feeding up a storm as they prepare for their migration south. Trollers are taking blues on both small surgical hose and small- to medium-size spoons. Chummers are doing quite well with the bluefish as they spark their appetite with the chum and then dangle tasty chunks of menhaden or Norfolk spot on their hooks.
Sea trout are in fair to good numbers on the Middle Grounds near the Target Ship, at the Power Plant above Cove Point and in Cornfield Harbor.
There's still plenty of good fishing ahead this fall.