If anyone is put off by the state's proposed fall striped bass regulation, they aren't making much noise.
Monday night's public hearing on the proposed regulations attracted about two dozen people, aboutseven of whom were reporters sent to cover the thing.
Add in four or five representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and Striped Bass Advisory Board and three or four regulars who go to most of the advisory board meetings, and that leaves you with just a handful of folks who came to express an opinion.
Four commercial netters from the Choptank River came to complain that a new striped bass spawning area regulation -- not the fall fishing regulation under discussion -- would wipe out their herring and perch fishery.
So that leaves four upper-bay fishermen who came to speak against the regulation. I think only two of the four said anything of note, the other two said things like "yeah" and "me, too."
I guess that means either the 50,000 to 1 million (depending on whose numbers you believe) Maryland recreational fishermen approve of the way the advisory board and the DNR are running the show or they don't give a gosh-darn about the rockfish.
The regulation sets a fall season forrecreational and charter boats that opens on Oct. 9 and closes Oct. 26 for recreational fishermen and Nov. 11 for charter boat patrons. Each recreational fishermen may catch two striped bass; charter boat patrons can take two per day.
If the recreational allocation has not been used up -- and the DNR does not think it will -- the season will reopen and anglers may take two rockfish per day until the limit is reached.
Both the recreational and charter boat fishermen will be required to tag their fish when they come aboard.
The tags will be locking tags so that if you tag a fish and then
catch a larger fish you will not be able to take the tag from the dead fish and put it on the larger fish. Having an untagged fish in your fish box is the same as having an illegal striped bass and you can be fined up to $1,500.
Although the DNR does not want to promote striped bass catch and release, if you do not use up your tags you can continue to fish. You must have at least one tag to fish for striped bass.
The total fall harvest will be increased from the 1990 level of 750,000 pounds to almost 1.1 million pounds.
The proposed rockfish rules willtake the legislative path of an emergency regulation since insufficient time remains to get it through the state's red tape before the season starts.
The DNR was unable to start sooner because the proposed season required the approval of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which met only last month. Nothing is easy anymore.
The only big complaint I've heard about the fall season concerns theseeming unfairness between Joe Fisherman, who owns his boat, and SamBuilder, who fishes on a charter boat. Joe is limited to two fish for the first half of the recreational season while Sam can charter a boat and catch two fish per day.
In most cases, Joe has a boat fishing license, meaning anglers on his boat need not have an individual fishing license.
You do not need a license to receive the two rockfish tags. So, Joe lines up all his friends and family and marches them off to get rockfish tags. When Joe wants to go catch rockfish, he picks from a pool of people that has tags and away he goes.
Sam isone of 4 million Marylanders who does not own a boat. His only access to the bay and opportunity to catch a rockfish is to charter a licensed captain, something he'll most likely do just once a season. So realistically, most of the charter boat fishermen will also get just two fish per season if the fishing gods are with them.
One more thing: keep in mind that Joe can go out and charter a boat, too.
The state and the Striped Bass Advisory Board heard a number of complaints from anglers who did not get the opportunity to catch rockfish in 1990 because the season closed after just nine days. Many of these complaints came from the lower bay, where the rockfish do not appear until later in the season.
The two-fish limit is the advisory board and state's way of making certain that everyone has an opportunity to fish for rockfish.
I think the advisory board and the DNR developed a good package for all the striped bass user groups.
I would have preferred some changes, and when I become king things will be different. The secret, however, is compromise. No one group got everythingit asked for, everyone had to give in and in the end the advisory board voted 9 to 1 for the fall regulation.
The DNR accepted the advisory board package and added a few housekeeping changes so the regulations can be enforced by the DNR police.
This is the way government is supposed to work.
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.