Politics continue to plague Maryland striped bass fishermen.
The Scientific and Statistical Committee of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted last week not to permit any further liberalization of striped bass regulations. This includes the Maryland proposal to increase the length of the 1992 spring trophy season from two weeks to a month and to lower the minimum size from 36 to 32 inches.
I'm certain you remember the spring trophy striped bass season. That's when more than 36,000 anglers received trophy striped bass fishing permits, participated in over 70,000 fishing days and caught somewhere between 140 and 360 legal-size rockfish.
The committee's action does not kill Maryland's hope for an improved spring fishery, butit does put a strike against it.
Maryland's Striped Bass AdvisoryBoard will meet tomorrow evening in a special session to prepare forthe ASMFC meetings in Baltimore next week. The commission probably will vote on our spring fishery Oct. 9, the opening day of Maryland's fall striped bass season.
Unfortunately, part of our problem comesfrom within.
Al Getz, one of Maryland's three ASMFC commissioners, has been very vocal against the spring fishery. However, professionals, biologists and fishery managers say a modest spring fishery, subsequent to the spawning activity, would not endanger the striped bassrevival.
The DNR thinks the proposal would create a harvest of slightly over 3,000 legal striped bass.
Another obstacle is Bill Goldsborough, Chesapeake Bay Foundation staff scientist and current chairman of the SBAB. Bill sent a letter to the ASMFC recommending against expanding striped bass fishing in any member state -- Massachusettsto North Carolina, including Pennsylvania, the Potomac River Commission and Washington.
Mr. Goldsborough previously voted for Maryland's plan when developed by the SBAB.
Not every state has been as conscientious as Maryland. Apparently, some of the other states have fished far over their theoretical quota.
Massachusetts is thought tohave landed over 550,000 pounds of legal striped bass. Its minimum size is 36 inches.
Because of Massachusetts' unique hook-and-line fishery, fishery managers estimate over 1.4 million pounds of striperswere lost due to hook-and-line mortality and poaching.
Amendment 4 of the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Plan that controls the stripedbass fishing in the mid-Atlantic area prescribed a harvest level, orfishing mortality, of about 20 percent of the legal-size fish in that area. The ASMFC guidelines to states recommend they institute a minimum size limit of at least 28 inches in ocean waters and an 18-inch size limit in some estuarine and bay waters such as the bay.
Commercial fishing was to be restricted to 20 percent of what it had been.
Most of the states operate under the ASMFC guidelines of one fishper person, per day. Some states have specific seasons, while otherspermit striped bass fishing year round.
I think it will be evident when all the data is in that many states are catching far too many stripers. Next week's meetings, I hope, will help adjust the fishing regulations to bring the harvest in line with ASMFC overall limits.
We can only hope that logic and reason will win out in permitting Maryland to make a slight adjustment to improve our fishery. However, we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot because many of our political appointments, such as commission members, are made because of friends or because they have contributed political favors. These people often operate from their own secret agendas and do not present a unified front for the state, nor do they represent their constituents.
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.