Two weeks ago I got a little hot under the collar with our state Department of Natural Resources for penning an emergency regulation on live bait and our proposed spring trophy striped bass season.
Problems continue, we hope they are fading as we illuminate them with truth and experience.
A very unusual weather pattern in October caused summer-style fishing conditions when the state opened the first striped bass season in five years. The rockfish held little interest in small bucktails, the normal fall technique for taking stripers. Instead, they could notget their fill of live eels.
After a few days of sensational fishing, the stories raced up the coast, growing as they went.
The down side of these eel fishing stories were tales of rockfish swallowingthe eel and getting gut-hooked. If the fish were going into the box,it made no difference. But, if the fisherman wanted to retrieve his hook and release the striper, there was a fair chance the fish died. If the angler had cut his leader, leaving the hook in the rockfish's stomach, the fish probably would live.
Nevertheless, the stories grew and members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which controls striped bass fishing along the coast, became concerned about eels and striped bass fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. Some were certain that if you put an eel on your hook and threw it into the bay, stripers would come from miles around just to bite that eel.
Commission members voiced their concerns, and DNR managers attempted to structure the regulations for the trophy fishery to avoid problems. Unfortunately, not many biologists and fishery managers know that muchabout fishing. By trying to set up a fishery for trophy rockfish they would have destroyed the bluefish fishery in the lower bay.
I believe the Striped Bass Advisory Board and some of us in the peanut gallery got things back on the right track at the board's advisory meeting last week.
The spring trophy season is not a period when live bait is effective. The big striped bass are feeding on large menhadenas they head toward the ocean. Anglers trolling large spoons and large bucktails have the best opportunity to catch one of these trophy-size strippers. I have never heard of anyone catching one on live bait. I'm not saying that it is impossible, just not likely.
The advisory board has not made a great deal of headway on the fall striper regulations. It has been agonizing over a tag system, similar to Quebec's salmon fishery, but I don't think there's enough time for this year's fishery.
Most of the decisions must be made by next month, else we will get into another emergency regulation situation and run thechance of problems with the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee, a standing panel of senators and delegates. The committee approved the spring trophy season, 6-5.
Several advisory board members asked the state to prepare an information package for the AELR committee to counter the misinformation given by one opponent, a member of the General Assembly.
Recreational fishing representatives again pushed the advisory board to combine the recreational and charter boat allocations. The motion was defeated, 7-2, and the system for the three user groups -- commercial, charter and recreational-- will continue.
The commercial fishermen offered a motion to extend their season to 40 days (they do not fish weekends), or until the allocation is caught, to spread out the catch and maintain prices. No increase in allocation was suggested. The motion was approved.
The Chesapeake Sportfishing Seminar/Show runs tomorrow and Sunday at the Solomons Holiday Inn.
For more information, call (301) 326-2670.
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.