ANNAPOLIS -- How about a fall rockfish season all but guaranteed to last longer than last year's prematurely closed nine-day affair? How about a fall rockfish season in which anglers could keep the fish they caught Friday through Sunday, releasing those taken Monday through Thursday?
This was a suggestion by the Department of Natural Resources' Pete Jensen at last night's Striped Bass Advisory Board meeting during which approval was given to the Maryland Charterboat Association for a 31-day charter season opening Oct. 11 with a catch of two rockfish a day. If the still-undetermined overall charter quota is met before 31 days, the season would close.
This proposal needs final approval by the DNR and the Atlantic Coast Marine Fisheries Commission, but no problems are anticipated. This would open the charter season one day before the suggested start of the recreational fishery.
The charter proposal also would restrict charter craft to two trips a day at the most, and there also was a suggestion that captains and mates be allowed to keep one fish a day. Last year they could keep none.
Next Thursday the board will finalize recommendations for the fall recreational fishery. Last night it appeared to favor a tag system, but still to be determined is whether one, two or four tags would be offered for the entire season, the suggested opening date of which is Oct. 12.
Recreational interests expressed a desire for a season to run as long as possible before the quota is met. There was talk of a nine- to 16-day season, and if the quota isn't met to re-open it on a traditional basis -- with no tags required -- until the quota is filled.
There was also talk of possible changes in the size limit, which was fish between 18 and 36 inches last year. If the minimum size limit is increased, the season could last longer.
But the most interesting aspect of discussions was Jensen's proposal for a combined "release-and-keep" recreational season that could last as long as five weeks. Those who want rockfish to take home could fish Friday through Sunday and then on charterboats during other times.
All fish caught on recreational craft Mondays through Thursdays would have to be released. Currently, it is illegal to fish for rock other than in regular seasons, but this approach makes it possible to fish for and release rock for an extended period.
The DNR will run proposed scenarios through its computers to determine how long a recreational fishery could run under the various options suggested last night and report to the board next Thursday.
The last DNR Bowhunter Safety Course of the season is scheduled to open Wednesday (7-10 p.m.) at the Howard County Fairgrounds. The second session will be held April 26 (7-10 p.m.) and the finale on April 28 (8 a.m. until the course is completed). For information, call Phil Wagenbrenner at 461-3007.