Next fall's rockfish season now under consideration should be an equitable affair that would give everyone a fair chance to catch a fish. No repeats, thank you, of last October's fiasco.
Of course, not everyone will be able to keep a rock. No way.
The suggested more liberal sports-commercial total quota of about a million pounds (a 30 percent increase) probably would restrict the actual number of keeper non-commercial rock to about 85,000.
That sounds like a lot -- but it's estimated that 200,000 anglers participated in last year's first post-moratorium season that was aborted for recreational fishermen after nine days. Too many anglers caught too many rock too fast.
Figure that 15 percent of last October's anglers will drop out because much of the novelty and fanfare will have subsided, seeing that we will have had that season and this spring's under our belts. Yet, we would have 170,000 anglers, and fish still averaging 5 pounds.
It takes no degree in math to realize that only about half those eligible could keep a rock -- if they figure out how to catch one. One for the whole season, not one a day.
So, it's obvious a different approach is appropriate. Rather than force the Department of Natural Resources to once again lead with its chin and again be the target of disgruntled anglers -- some of whom last fall never had a chance to wet a line because of the premature close -- allow this writer to risk being a goat.
First, let me make it clear, all of this is not original. It incorporates fragments under consideration with varying degrees of interest by the Striped Bass Advisory Board, which, judging from proceedings last week, is doing a good job -- and is determined to chart an equitable fall season.
This is no implied criticism of the original Striped Bass White Paper Committee, which last year was handicapped by starting from scratch. It did a great job -- if one ignores that ridiculous disparity of two fish for recreational anglers and five for charterboaters.
Let's do away with the controversial allocation of 42.5 percent of the overall quota for both recreational and commercial fishermen, and 15 percent for charters. Give watermen their 42.5 percent, with the remainder allocated for sports hook-and-liners whether they fish charters or on their own.
After all, are we not all recreational fishermen? This just might work to the advantage of the hard-pressed charter industry while doing away with the possibility of a fellow taking a recreational quota, then taking his charter quota all in the same day -- as some did last year.
This accomplished, adopt a permit system a bit different than the one tag per angler system projected for next month's trophy season.
Issue each applicant five to seven tags with his permit, two of which he could use in a day in a season comparable to that originally planned in '90 -- one month. Let's start in midweek to lessen the impact of the opening day madhouse.
Five to seven tags sounds excessive, but statistics indicate only one in 10 to 15 tags would be fulfilled. Each tag would bear the unique number of the master permit to discourage illegal traffic among tag holders and others who want to catch more than allowed.
An angler could use his tags on his own, or on a charterboat. Upon catching a legal fish (with the same 18- to 36-inch size as last fall), he would be required to tag it, then report it that day to DNR by mail or at a checking station.
DNR would maintain its accurate up-to-the-day monitoring system to ensure we do not overfish our quota to satisfy concerns of the conservative Atlantic Coast Marine Fisheries Commission, which has the final word.
The tag system would remain in effect the first two weeks of the season, then give way -- with tags no longer needed -- to a creel of one or two rock a day until DNR considers the quota is reached. This would ensure a season longer than in 1990 -- and we would not end up like watermen whose season closed before they took half of their quota.