On Wednesday, Maryland's 1991 fall striped bass season opens. On Tuesday, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission probably will decide whether Maryland will have a reasonable spring striper season. And today, you'd better get your rockfish gear together for Wednesday's opener.
But first, some background.
Last Monday evening, the Striped Bass Advisory Board met to consider the ASMFC Scientific and Statistical Committee's rejection of Maryland's request to expand the spring fishery. This year, with over 76,000 fishing days, Maryland anglers landed somewhere between 140 and 330 legal (36-inch or larger) striped bass.
Maryland's proposal --to decrease size limit and increase season length -- would increase the catch by about 3,000 rockfish; a conservative spring fishery withjust enough opportunity to catch a big fish to make it interesting.
Many people do not realize this is the only chance Maryland anglers have to catch a big rockfish. Rockfish that were born in the Chesapeake begin migrating to the ocean when they are 2 years old, and by the time they are 6 or 7, most live in the ocean and only return to spawn.
While we were catching approximately 6,000 pounds of 36-inch-plus stripers, Massachusetts landed approximately 550,000 pounds of these fish. Massachusetts fishery managers believe they also lost another one million pounds of stripers to "catch and release" mortality and poaching.
New Jersey reports its residents landed over 750,000 pounds of 28-inch-plus stripers, counting only the fish landed in daytime. New Jersey's night striper fishery probably is equal to or greater than the daylight fishery.
At Monday's SBAB meeting, a senior Department of Natural Resources representative said that the DNR had dropped the idea of requesting a reduced size limit for the 1992 spring fishery but was going to push for the longer season at the ASMFC meeting on Oct. 8 in Baltimore.
Several board members brought up the fact that Bill Goldsborough, SBAB chairman and Chesapeake Bay Foundation staff scientist, wrote a letter to the ASMFC arguing against the liberalization of fishing regulations. This would mean a vote against Maryland's proposal.
Goldsborough said his letter was a generalpolicy statement and should not have any bearing on Maryland's proposal.
I do not understand why the board did not call for Goldsborough's resignation as chairman. If you are going to work through the board, you must accept the outcome of the board's deliberations. You can't have it both ways. You can't vote for a proposal passed by the board one week and then write a letter against the proposal the next week.
Goldsborough said he didn't think anyone in the ASMFC knew he was the chairman of the SBAB, so it wouldn't make any difference.
The striped bass community is not that large. How will it be perceived if our representatives say one thing this week and come out againstit next week?
At minimum, it will cause confusion.
The board, including Goldsborough, agreed to write a letter to the ASMFC outlining all of the positive aspects of Maryland's fishery and the reasons the board thinks the original proposal should be passed by the ASMFC.
The ASMFC will take up the striped bass issue at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Stouffer's Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore. The session, which is open to the public, will probably last all afternoon.
Wednesday will dawn and this mess will be forgotten for a while, as we try to catch a few of these beautiful fish. I know many anglers have stocked up on live eels, but I haven't seen the large concentrations of stripers that would invite this type of fishing. Neither have I seen the pods of rockfish on the bottom around the lumps and submerged islands that would bring out the bottom-bouncers.
For the first few days to a week, you can tie on bucktails or spoons and just go trolling forthem. Conditions obviously will change as the water gets a little cooler. Or will it?
Could this be yet another strange year? When didyou last see a whale in the Chesapeake?
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.