Sportfishing Group Riles Rockfish Debate


November 02, 1990|By Cpt. Bob Spore

Abraham Lincoln said: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

It appears as if the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association (MSSA) will be happy with fooling some of the fishermen some of the time with its attack on commercial watermen.

I wandered into an outdoor sporting goods shop earlier this week and found a blaze orange sign on the counter: "Attention Sportfishermen: Commercial watermen want you to stop fishing. See details. Join the MSSA to protect recreational fishermen and make the rockfish a game fish."

I looked around for details, but all I found was a petition to the governor, the General Assembly or the Department of Natural Resources (apparently they don't care which) to eliminate immediately the commercial catch and sale of wild stocks of Chesapeake Bay striped bass in the state.

The MSSA has the right to lobby to get its members a better rockfish deal. I do, however, hate to see them use lies to get ahead.

The opening statement on their sign is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Any red-blooded minnow dipper is going to grab a pen and sign anything to get even with those thieving watermen.

Here's the rub: The president of the MSSA was at the Striped Bass Advisory Board meeting last week when the Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen's Association, offered his group's share of any spring striped bass allocation to the recreational and charter boat fishermen.

So, if the board and the DNR decide to have a May/June season, Simns, the man the MSSA accuses of trying to halt the sportfishermen's season, would relinquish his share of the harvest. Some bogyman!

The president of the MSSA sits on the Striped Bass Advisory Board.

Several other board members are also association members, and the MSSA executive director has been at almost every board meeting.

There has been no overt or covert move by anyone to reduce the recreational fishermen's quota. Therefore, I see no rationale for the unwarranted attack on commercial watermen. I can only suppose that the MSSA managers speak with forked tongue.

By whipping up sentiment against the commercial fisherman, I think they hope to keep this old rivalry alive for their own greedy purposes. I believe MSSA officials want to run the rockfish program, believing they have the true knowledge and insight that DNR biologists and fishery managers lack.

Earlier this year, the MSSA recommended to the DNR that the recreational fishermen be given the 42.5 percent of the total harvest allocation designated for the commercial fishermen. This would give 85 percent of the total harvest to the recreational fisherman and 15 percent to the charter boats. Note that the charter boat allocation does not increase under the new masters.

I recognize that the commercial waterman has always been painted as the bad guy, but I'm beginning to think the waterman may have been given a bad rap. Properly managed, I think he has just as much right to a share of the resource as you and I do.

However, watch out for the MSSA -- I'm beginning to think it may be the real enemy.

Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-licensed charter boat captain from Pasadena.

His Outdoors column appears every Friday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.

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