ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland Department of Natural Resources yesterday announced the parameters for a spring trophy rockfish season it has proposed to the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review of the state legislature.
Under the proposal, the season will run from May 11 through May 27. The minimum size limit for the season will be 36 inches, and anglers will be limited to one fish during the course of the season.
Fishing for rockfish would be allowed south of the Bay Bridge and only in the bay proper. The upper bay and all tributaries would be closed to protect spawning stocks.
The proposal must be approved by the AELR committee, which could enact it under guidelines for emergency regulations. Emergency regulation procedures are necessary because discussions between the DNR and the Striped Bass Advisory Board were not completed until Feb. 11, some 40 days after they had been expected to end.
If the AELR Committee determines there is sufficient public interest in the regulations, it could order public hearings on the proposal, after which a decision would have to be made whether to enact the regulations or to send them back to DNR for revisions.
The current DNR proposal, which was announced by secretary Torrey C. Brown, reflects a slight change in the parameters the DNR presented to the Striped Bass Advisory Board on Feb. 11. At that time, the DNR had proposed to start a two-week spring fishery no earlier than Monday, May 13. The proposed size and creel limits were the same.
The current proposal would give anglers two more days of fishing, with the season opening on a Saturday. The season will close on Memorial Day.
Some members of the Striped Bass Advisory Board, particularly the representatives of the charter-boat industry, had hoped that a longer season with different size limits would be proposed by DNR.
The advisory board, whose recommendations are not binding on the DNR, had recommended in one vote that the DNR set a size limit that would ensure a two-week season at a size between 30 and 36 inches.
In a subsequent vote, the board had asked that the DNR investigate the possibility of two two-week spring seasons, the first at a 45-inch minimum size limit and the second at a size deemed suitable by DNR.
In all cases, the board backed a limit of one fish per angler per season.
"All the input from the advisory board was considered," said William P. Jensen, director of fisheries for the DNR Tidewater Administration. "Even the 28-inch minimum was considered, even though we had said we shouldn't go that low.
"We did look at alternative size limits, such as 32 and 34 inches. But we ended up with 36 inches because we didn't want to get too far into the 1982 year class, which is now getting close to the 36-inch size limit."
The 1982 year class has been the benchmark on which recovery of striped bass stocks has been based. Holding off on fishing for the 1982 class until after this spring's spawn will ensure that 95 percent of that year's class has had a chance to reproduce at least once.
"Now the real work begins, getting out the permits, getting the enforcement and monitoring stations operative," Jensen said.
Part of monitoring the catch, Jensen said, will be through the use of atwo-part permit that will be issued to the public at no charge. The fisherman will be required to attach half of the waterproof permit to the fish as soon as it is caught and then head for a check-in station.
At the check-in station, the angler will be required to fill out the second half of the permit, which will provide details of when, where and how the fish was caught.
Aerial overflights, telephone interviews, dockside interviews and daily check-ins will be the major forms of fisheries monitoring.