State releases study of 1990 rockfish season

May 19, 1991|By PETER BAKER

The Department of Natural Resources study of the 1990 striped bass harvest, which was made available to The Sun last week, is an amalgam of statistical studies and explanations of what did and did not happen on Maryland waters during the first rockfish season since January 1985.

The study, "Maryland's 1990 Striped Bass Harvest and Background Fishing Losses," was put together by Louis J. Rugolo, Philip W. Jones, Cluney M. Stagg and Harley Speir of the DNR's Tidewater Administration, which was charged with managing the fishery.

In its 39 pages, the study details the methods used to monitor recreational, commercial and charter boat harvests, each of which was surveyed differently. The study also -shows that only the non-charter boat recreational season exceeded its allotment of fish.

Last fall's recreational and charter boat seasons were to run simultaneously, from Oct. 5 to Nov. 9. The recreational season was closed after 10 days, and the charter boat season was closed after 16.

According to the study, in the 10 days of the recreational season, anglers in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay exceeded their allotment of 318,750 pounds by more than 50 tons.

Also according to the study, the charter boats were more than seven tons short of their allocation and the commercial catch in the bay was only 42 percent of the allowable total.

Of the 750,000 pounds allotted to Maryland fishermen in the bay, 42.5 percent each went to recreational and commercial fishermen and 15 percent went to the charter boat industry.

According to the study, recreational fishermen caught 413,896 pounds of rockfish, and the commercial and charter boat fishermen caught a combined total of 231,883 pounds.

These figures are estimates based on surveys of each group and include only fish of legal size, which last year in the bay was from 18 to 36 inches total length.

That the charter boat harvest was off may be attributed, the survey said, to lax reporting on mandatory log books of catches and the large number of guides and commercial fishermen who chose to participate in the fishery. As of Sept. 7, 445 captains had declared their intention to take trips for hire during rockfish season.

The influx of new captains for hire, the report says, threw the estimate off.

According to the study, background fishing losses, or those fish that died as the result of hook-and-release fishing or poaching, was 32,711 for the year. During the open recreational season, the study estimates that 8,685 rockfish died as the result of legal or illegal fishing activity.

The losses to Maryland striped bass fishery in 1990 due to the effects of poaching or by-catch mortality are estimated to be 112,078 fish, weighing a total of 168,273 pounds.

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