Striped-bass board fishes for 1991 answers


October 24, 1990|By PETER BAKER

ANNAPOLIS -- Monday night in a conference room at the Department of Natural Resources, the Striped Bass Advisory Board convened another in a series of work sessions intended to formulate recommendations for the 1991 striped-bass season or seasons in Maryland waters.

3 1/2 hours of discussions and deliberations, the eight board members who were present decided one point and seemed to backtrack on several others.

a meeting on Oct. 1, the advisory board announced that it had reached a consensus on several tentative recommendations dealing with a late-spring fishery for striped bass, including separate charter and recreational seasons and a May trophy season.

On Monday night, the board decided that if there is to be a spring season of any sort in May, the area to be fished should be limited to waters of the Chesapeake Bay below a line drawn west across the bay from Bloody Point, which is at the southern tip of Kent Island. Bay tributaries and spawning reaches below that line would be off-limits.

CThe reasoning behind the creation of a Bloody Point line is that it would protect the fish that have yet to spawn. The possibility of the line or the seasons becoming reality is less well-defined.

The Striped Bass Advisory Board can do no more than advise the fisheries managers at the DNR, who are empowered to make decisions within state and federal guidelines. The bottom line is that the advisory board can recommend a spring fishery and the DNR can choose to ignore the recommendation.

That probably will not happen because a revised study method for the fishery has determined that there apparently are an additional 380,000 pounds of striped bass available to be fished from the migratory stocks that leave the bay in late spring and early summer and become catchable elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast.

The thinking on the part of the advisory board and the DNR seems to be that if anyone gets a shot at those fish, Marylanders should get their hooks into them before the residents of Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Maine get their chance.

The problem among the members of the advisory board, which fTC represents commercial, recreational and charter-boat user groups and conservationists in Maryland, is who gets which slice of the pie -- and why.

The representatives of the charter-boat industry want a spring fishery to save their businesses, which have been damaged first the moratorium on striped bass and then by the disappearance of the spring runs of big bluefish. Their interest is economic, plain and simple: get the customers started in the spring with an early striped-bass season and keep them coming back through the summer and into the fall striped-bass season.

The representatives of the commercial industry said Monday that a token spring fishery might not be worth the effort and that their allocation of any catch should be divided among recreational and charter fishermen.

The recreational representatives, who earlier were opposed to a spring fishery, now want their share if there is to be a season -- and they want a fair share, a creel limit equal to that of the charter boats. (In the 1990 season, charter boats were allowed five fish per customer per day, and recreational fishermen were allowed two fish per day per man.)

O'Brien, a board member representing the charter-boat industry, explained his recommendation for a spring fishery as follows:

A trophy season would run from May 1 to May 15, with a minimum size of 42 inches and a limit of one fish per boat. From May 16 through June 10, a second part of the season would allow a size limit between 28 and 36 inches and a creel limit of one per person, with a separate creel limit for head boats or party boats with more than six customers aboard.

Bill Huppert, a board member who represents recreational fishermen, suggested that perhaps a one-week trophy season followed by a one-week secondary season with one fish per person for all fishermen would be better.

Fred Meers, president of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association and a member of the board, said he favors a conservative approach and would prefer that a spring season be put off until 1992.

CExcept for the Bloody Point line, the matters of the spring fishery were tabled until more figures could be obtained from the DNR.

William P. Jensen, director of fisheries for the DNR Tidewater Administration, said that for an advisory board recommendation to have a bearing on a spring fishery, it would have to be completed by mid-December.

1990 striped-bass seasons at a glance

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