It's time to uncover those old rockfish haunts again

Bill Burton

October 08, 1991|By Bill Burton

Ah, suddenly those familiar names of yore come back; Man O'War Shoals, Spartys Lump, Gales Shoals, Teakettle Shoals, and the list goes on and on.

They're upper Chesapeake Bay rockfish haunts of the good old days when in early fall the fish were plentiful, and the catching was good. Pretty much forgotten the past six years except for last fall's unexpectedly brief rock season, once again they will be in the limelight tomorrow -- and probably a month thereafter.

Maryland's second post-moratorium fall rockfish season opens tomorrow amidst the concern of many that the catching of legal fish won't be as good as it was last fall when recreational anglers took their quota in 10 days, and charterboaters less than a week later.

It isn't that rock are scarce, it's that those of legal size -- 18 to 36 inches -- don't appear as abundant as they were at this time in '90. Many rock have been taken recently by anglers trying for blues, but most in the 10- to 15-inch class. Even the popular Bay Bridge area doesn't appear to have as many large rock as anticipated.

The busiest spot on the Chesapeake will probably be off Love Point, a favorite spot among those who drift live eels for rock. Last fall this area turned up the best angler success; also on the average, the largest fish. Talk of banning eels in the fall season dissipated.

Both the charter and recreational fisheries were aborted several weeks early last year when quotas were reached earlier than anticipated, but the Department of Natural Resources expects them to run their full course this season because the recreational creel was reduced from two a day to two a season, and the charter fishery was cut back from five a day to two a day. Also, quotas were hiked by about one-third.

Though a last-minute rush is developing in tackle shops, neither business nor interest appears to match that of last year -- the first legal rockfishing opportunity following a five-year moratorium. The mandatory Coast Guard user fee stamp of from $25 to $100 a boat might also have prompted some boaters to call it quits for the season.

As of yesterday, the Coast Guard headquartered in Curtis Bay reported only five citations issued for no decals since enforcement started last Tuesday.

Live eels are among the best sellers in tackle shops, and most eelers have already purchased their supplies or ordered them. Again, there could be a shortage.

The Nick's Stix Stinger Eel, of soft plastic in real eel size, would be a good substitute for trolling live eels. When worked with a rod, it might also produce when drifting.

Bucktails are the favorites of trollers. No. 4 'tails appear the most popular in either yellow or white. Small to medium spoons should also do well. Other favorite fishing areas will be Belvedere Shoals, Tolchester, Swan Point, Pooles Island, Kent Island Shore, Thomas and Hacketts points, the Gooses, and mouths of the Potomac, Patuxent and Choptank.

Fall rockfish regulations

* CHESAPEAKE DATES: Recreational fishery, Oct. 9-Oct. 26; will reopen if quota of 456,747 pounds is not taken, but close earlier if allotment is taken prematurely. Charter, Oct. 9-Nov. 11, with no provision for an extension, but will be shut down if the quota of 161,206 pounds is reached before the designated end.

* OCEAN DATES: For all sportsfishing, Oct. 9-26, no provisions for early close, or extension.

* BAY LIMITS: Chesapeake recreational, two a season by free permit only. Charter, two a day -- no permit needed. The possession limit for all fishermen is two a day. If the recreational season is extended, no tags will be required, and the limit will be two a day.

* OCEAN LIMITS: One a day, no permits needed.

* SIZE LIMITS: Fish in the bay must be between 18 and 36 inches; those in the ocean must be 28 inches or longer.

* FISHING AREA: Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Unlike the spring trophy season, fishing will be allowed north of the Bay Bridge. In the ocean area, fishing is allowed in the Atlantic and back bays.

* MISCELLANEOUS: No rockfish in possession on the water from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Traditional live and artificial baits including live eels can be used. Tags must be affixed to fish immediately upon their catch. For information, call 974-3356.

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