MATAPEAKE -- The Department of Natural Resources met with the Striped Bass Advisory Board in the Tidewater Administration complex here last night to review the penultimate set of regulations for the 1991 fall striped bass season.
The regulations, which must finally be approved by the state, appear to set up a season that will do away with the greatest problem fishermen faced last fall: too many fish caught in too short a time.
Last fall, during the first rockfish (striped bass) season in Maryland waters since January 1985, the recreational and charterboat seasons were closed early because each group had caught its quota of the allowable catch of 750,000 pounds. Both seasons opened Oct. 5 and were scheduled to run through Nov. 9.
The recreational season closed after 10 days, when DNR officials determined the quota of 318,750 pounds had been reached.
The charterboat season closed after 16 days.
This fall, the allowable catch for commercial, recreational and charterboat fishermen will be 1,074,700 pounds, an increase of 43 percent over last fall.
The percentage of the catch will remain the same as last year, with increased poundages of 161,205 pounds (15 percent) for charterboats and 456,747.5 pounds (42.5 percent) for recreational anglers fishing from the shoreline or from privately owned boats.
"Our projection is that there will be fish available [throughout the seasons this fall]," said William P. Jensen, director of fisheries for the Tidewater Administation. "Since it is a new experience, we cannot project just how many. But we are convinced there will be fish and there will be a second season."
Under the proposal, the recreational season this fall will be separated into two parts, each with separate creel limits. In the first portion (Oct. 9 through Oct. 26), anglers will be issued two free but mandatory tags and limited to two fish in those 18 days.
The catch for that first portion of the season then would be evaluated, the season would be reopened and anglers would be allowed two fish per day until the quota is caught. No tags would be required in the second part of the season.
"That first [part of the] season, we don't anticipate closing that at all," Jensen said, "because of two fish per season per angler and based the number of anglers and success rate."
The second part of the season could not begin later than Nov. 9. DNR officials believe the second season may begin Oct. 27.
The charterboat season will run from Oct. 9 through Nov. 11 with a creel limit of two fish per day per angler. There are no provisions for an extended charterboat season.
Either season could be closed by DNR when the quota is reached.
The recreational and charterboat seasons in the Atlantic Ocean are similar to the bay seasons.
In the Maryland's Atlantic waters, the charterboat season would run from Oct. 9 through Nov. 11, but the minimum size would be 28 inches and the creel limit would be one fish per person per day. The coastal charter season could be extended.
The Maryland coastal season for recreational fisherman would run from Oct. 9 through Oct. 26 with a possible extended season, but the limit will be one fish per person per day with a minimum size of 28 inches.
One change in the proposed regulations for charterboat operators is that licensed fishing guides will be required to tag fish taken aboard their boats.
"This is not the same as the numbered accounting tag," Jensen said. "It is simply an enforcement tool so that when someone walks off a charterboat with two fish, then they will be tagged saying this was caught on a charterboat named so and so."
The biological data that are provided by the recreational fisherman's tag, as it was in the spring season, will be provided by guides' logbooks.
A public hearing on the fall regulations will be scheduled in July.