Big rockfish are the talk of the Chesapeake, as anglers await tomorrow's opener of the 17-day trophy season, but bluefish aren't giving up the limelight easily.
Yesterday, Rick Talbott of Bozman tied the Maryland bluefish record with a 22-pounder taken near the ship channel off Chesapeake Beach. That should get some attention on the eve of the rock opener.
Talbott's catch -- checked in at The Angler -- was made on a luminous green 11/0 Crippled Alewive spoon fished near the surface without any lead weight to make it work deep -- a rig that, incidentally, would be appropriate for rock during the brief spring season.
Meanwhile, rock also are making news on another front. In a surprise move the Department of Natural Resources has offered an alternative proposal for public consideration for the fall rockfish season tentatively scheduled for October.
Last week, the Striped Bass Advisory Board recommended a season in which the charter and recreational fisheries would be separate, a plan that DNR fisheries administrator Paul Massicot described as a "good proposal," but an alternative was offered for consideration at a public meeting Wednesday, the details of which are covered in the adjoining box.
Taken aback by the latest developments, charter representatives on the advisory board pressed successfully for a meeting of that group Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at the DNR's Matapeake facility on the Eastern Shore.
Large rockfish abound in the Chesapeake for tomorrow's opener, most of them cruising in the deeper waters of the ship channel from the Bay Bridge to the Virginia line. However, many of them -- though in deep waters -- are found near the surface to suggest that some rigs should be fished with 3 ounces or less of weight to ensure they don't work too deep.
Large spoons and bucktails fished on leaders of 30 feet or more are recommended. Mike Listorti, whose Tidewater Tackle bucktails were prominent on the bay scene until he sold his business nearly a decade ago, is now making lures under the East Coast Bucktail name, and he suggests a 6/0 or 7/0 Ruby Lip of white with a red streak.
Fishermen are big on red and white, said Listorti, who recommends fishing it with a couple ounces of sinker, even though some of the other rigs on a boat should be worked near the bottom.
The DNR is promoting barbless hooks to lessen the chance of injuring rock that must be released. The minimum allowable size is 36 inches. To make a hook barbless, compress the barb with pliers. If a rock is badly hooked, cut the line, free the fish, and it should eventually get rid of the lure on its own.
All anglers must have in their possession free permits available at many tackle shops, and fish must be tagged immediately, then checked in at a designated check station on the day caught.
All bay fishing for rock is restricted to bay waters south of the Bay Bridge, including Tangier and Pocomoke sounds. Fishing hours are from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., and only artificial lures are allowed. The same regulations apply to the Atlantic Ocean, where no rock fishing will be allowed in the back bays. The season closes May 27.