This week ...
Because of recent rains, there's a lot of water coming through Conowingo Dam, but brothers Ray and George Conway got 17 white perch, three of which were 11 to 12 inches from deep holes in the Susquehanna. They also took five "eating-size" catfish and a 15-inch smallmouth.
Weather fronts can disrupt Susky fishing dramatically. The next to the last day of the charterboat season for rock, Tom Goodspeed and I fished it with guide Earl Ashenfelter, and got only one strike.
Ashenfelter had figured he found the fish -- the previous day his two anglers got their four fish, three of which were of from 35 to 36 inches. The biggest weighed 18 pounds. They did that amid the monsoon winds of last Thursday as the front swept in.
The same spot was barren the next day.
Incidentally, the catwalk at Conowingo Dam has reopened to fishing -- but not for rockfish.
Saturday: Dr. Edward Layne and his ghost stories and poems, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., Oregon Ridge Nature Center. $5 a family. Call 887-1815.
* Saturday/Sunday: Chesapeake Appreciation Days, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Skipjack and other boat races, bay-oriented exhibits, seafood, jousting, and live entertainment. Admission, $5, children under 12 free. Call 974-9330.
* Sunday: Baltimore County Fish and Game Protective Association will open its range Sunday, 3400 Northwind Road, for deer hunters to sight in their rifles. Call 668-4327.
* Monday: Public auction of 135 decoys by bay carvers, 7:30 p.m., Hunter's Sale Barn, Rising Sun. Call 1-301-658-6400.
* Tuesday: Boat Act Advisory Committee meeting, 10 a.m., Boating Administration, 902 Commerce Road, Annapolis. Call Dan Ciekot, 974-7065.
* Wednesday: Easy Mountain Club of Maryland hike at Big Gunpowder Falls. Call 435-8443.
All the rock haven't been eaten yet from the recent seasons -- nor have all the catch figures been analyzed, but already charterboaters and some recreational fishermen are pushing for spring seasons in 1990. Yes seasons, though two are disguised as one!
The availability of 380,000 pounds of migratory rock that leave the bay in late spring and early summer is too much of a temptation. Our fellows want a shot at them before others along the coast get their cracks. These are different fish than the resident fish chased in the recent charterboat and recreational season.
Seems like we're reverting to that old tired and repugnant theme "let's get them before someone else does."
Charterboaters are pushing for a May 1 through May 15 trophy rockfish season with a minimum size of 42 inches and a limit of one to the boat; then another of from May 16 through June 10 with a window size limit of 28 to 36 inches with a limit of one to each fisherman.
There's also the recommendation that fishing only be allowed below Bloody Point, to protect fish that have not yet spawned. Big deal!
Oh, yes, and though it wasn't mentioned in so many words, that boundary will ensure territorial rights of fishermen who fish the mid and lower bay.
So now many recreational fishermen, who can get their boats that far south, are swept up by the visions of more rockfishing, and respond "if charterboats are going to do it, we want our share." Then there are the commercial fishermen. Where will all of this end?
Maybe this will help the charterboat industry, but what about our beloved rockfish? Has anyone considered the stress placed on fish that must be released? Fish that have already endured the stress of spawning?
Picture all the boats relocating their home ports for nearly six weeks. A charterboat fleet of nearly 500, not to mention thousands of private boats -- and all targeting rockfish. Think of all those big fish -- some not yet spawned, others stressed by spawning -- being hooked and fought for up to 30 minutes, maybe even longer, turned free, exhausted and facing death.
Think of the Department of Natural Resources' own statistics of earlier this year that indicated a surprisingly high mortality rate among fish released, and how much higher it was among larger rock.
Hopefully the DNR will review its own report; also review its own obligations to protect rock. Then, like it has with waterfowl and some fisheries controversies, just say NO.
Names and places
If the Persian Gulf thing doesn't get settled, plan on paying at least $100 more for an offshore canyon billfish and tuna trip next year, warns Talbot Street Pier operator Lloyd Lewis. Marine fuel prices are up about 50 cents a gallon -- and an offshore boat burns 250 to 300 gallons a day. And then there's the associated increased fuel costs tied into other goods and services.