With over two years of research, meetings and planning by a great number of knowledgeable people, why did the rockfish season come to an abrupt halt, long before it was due to end?
The question has many answers: the season started on a holiday weekend; temperatures hovered in the unseasonable mid-80s; fish were much larger than expected; and live bait was very successful on the larger striped bass.
But the overriding reason the season was so short was because the Department of Natural Resources fishery managers lacked the experience to actually "manage" a fishery. They thought opening the season in October, well past the time that many fishermen hang up their rods, would reduce participation. Hook and line surveys as late as three days before the beginning of the season indicated the fish would be much smaller and harder to catch.
The results are in now and DNR fishery managers have learned a great deal that will make them that much smarter in the future. The foregoing occupied much of last weeks Striped Bass Advisory Committee meeting.
The only criticism was that the season didn't last long enough and what might be done to slow the recreational angler's catch such as starting the fall season even later, especially not on a holiday weekend, reduce the creel limit from two to one fish and possibly eliminate live bait for striped bass were all discussed without any firm positions by the committee.
As I sat in the peanut gallery, I began to wonder if Chesapeake Bay recreational fishermen were adequately represented on the committee. The following is a thumbnail sketch of the Rockfish Dozen Minus Two: * Bill Goldsborough, committee chairman and senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Bill is ultra-conservative and would have delayed opening the fishery until next year or maybe the year after.
* Jim Gilford, chairman of the Sportsfishing Advisory Commission, a fresh water fisherman and an outdoor writer. Jim's sound common sense has been missed from the last two committee meetings.
* Bob Eurice, chairman of the Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission and an active waterman. Bob has a devilish twinkle in his eye and effectively mixes fact and fiction to keep the recreational reps off balance.
* Bill Woodfield Jr., president of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association and seafood wholesaler. Bill is quiet and straightforward.
* Capt. Ed O'Brian, vice president of the Maryland Charterboat Association, member of the Sportsfishing Advisory Commission and active charter boat captain. Ed has pushed the May fishery so hard that it has occupied almost all the committee time. Although he attempts to represent all the captains, his middle and lower bay ties are apparent.
* Fred Meers, president of the Maryland Saltwater Sportsfishermen's Association and manufacturer of the Crippled Alewive lure. Fred is quiet, conservative and doesn't particularly like confrontation.
* Capt. Buddy Harrison owns the Chesapeake House restaurant and charter boat fleet. Buddy probably got on the committee through his ties with the governor and is pushing hard for a May fishery.
* Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Waterman's Association and an active waterman. Larry, often the spoiler or pot-stirrer in other arenas has been relegated to the voice of reason on the committee.
* William Huppert, a member of the Sportsfishing Advisory Commission and has mentioned fishing from a sailboat. Mr. Huppert has only one agenda: "charter captains and recreational fishermen must have equal seasons and creel limits." He was probably added to the committee to balance the charter/recreational numbers when Buddy Harrison was put on the committee.
* "Fishing" Charlie Ebersberger, manager of Angler's Sport Center and a very good fisherman. Charlie probably fishes more than all the recreational fishing representatives put together, but is on the committee to watch out for the needs of the tackle and bait shops.
That's the lineup of the group working on the 1991 striped bass regulations. I've known all but one of them for years and think I know where they are coming from.
Unfortunately, there's a hole in the cast of characters: an active bay (recreational) fisherman was not selected for the committee. But, in my opinion the recreational input on the committee is more political than practical.
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.