Excitement is beginning to build for the first big rockfish season in five years.
"Big" refers to the size of the fish, not the lengthof the season nor the harvest.
The Department of Natural Resources has set up a season that would permit anglers to fish for post spawning or migrating striped bass without hurting the species. By setting the minimum size limit at 36 inches, the DNR has guaranteed that few fish will be harvested.
The creel limit is set at one fish per person for the 17-day season, which begins May 11. Therefore, the good fishermen who know how to catch fish are limited to one fish, as are those who happen to blunder into the occasional keeper.
The area open to the spring season is the main portion of the bay, south of the Bay Bridge. Only artificial lures may be used to catch rockfish. That means if you are chumming bluefish and happen to catch a rockfish on a piece of cut bait, you must release it.
Many people have questions about the tagging arrangements. Here is what we know so far.
If you have a Chesapeake Bay sport fishing license, you just go to your neighborhood tackle shop, show your driver's license and pick up a tag. If your boat is licensed, everyone fishing from your boat does not need a license, but they still must have a rockfish tag.
I recommend you get them soon. The state has printed 175,000 tags, but they might not be available in your local tackle shop when the season starts. Plan ahead and get your tag now.
The DNR plans to make tags available for charter boat captains so their customers, especially those from out of state, do not have to pick up individual tags before fishing on the charter boat.
If you catch your trophy rockfish and tag it, you must take it to one of the check-in stations (the place where you got the tags) the day the fish was caught.
The Striped Bass Advisory Board meeting Thursday evening was very successful. They had hoped to end the wrestling over the fall rockfish season and came close, but no cigar.
Theyplan to meet again next week, so the DNR can finish putting the regulation together.
One of the proposals for the recreational fisherywas a two-week season with all anglers having one tag.
At the endof the two weeks, the fishery would be closed for two weeks while the DNR reviews the number of fish caught against the recreational fishing quota. If part of the quota remains uncaught, the DNR would reopen the fishery for one fish per person, per day until the allocation was reached.
Most thought this was too conservative and asked the DNR to run the computers against various proposals.
The first priority was a guaranteed season. If you say a two-week season, then keep it at two weeks.
The second priority was not restricting the anglers from getting tags. A lottery system had been discussed where 50,000 tags would be dispersed and each person with a tag could catch a fish.
The third priority was to make the season as long as possible.
A DNR representative said he would look at a season where you could only keep striped bass if they were caught during the weekend (probably a three-day weekend). During the week, the anglers would be permitted to legally catch and release rockfish. This would provide a longer fishing season.
The SBAB did approve the fall charter boat season by a vote of 9-1.
The season will start Oct. 11, charter boatanglers will be permitted two striped bass per day, and charter boats will be limited to a maximum of two trips per day.
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.