The first week of the fall striped bass season is history. It has been interesting, it has been relatively successful and it has been terribly frustrating.
There have been several long fishing days in a row where boats have clashed as fishermen vie against fishermen for the beautiful rockfish.
As of Wednesday evening, there was no word regarding the numbers of fish or pounds that have been caught by recreational and charter fishermen.
A rumor has surfaced that the Department of Natural Resources will close down the recreational fishery early. A DNR representative told me that they had not seen the numbers, so they couldn't possibly consider closing down the fishery; however, that was Wednesday.
The success rate is probably close to the same as last year, butthe level of activity is nowhere near what it was last October. I'veactually been all by myself in several areas where last year there would have been a crowd.
Much of the success happens in groups and anglers leap-frog to the head of the pack where the fish are biting or where the anglers think they will float over the fish. The bait of choice is a live eel. I prefer to hook the eel through both eyes and fish it on a 30- to 40-inch leader with enough weight to get the eel to the bottom quickly.
Eels are excellent rockfish bait. They are,however, unforgiving. Often the rockfish will swallow the eel, hook and all. Attempting to retrieve the hook and eel will result in a dead rockfish. If you already have caught your fish for the season and don't plan to stop fishing, I suggest you troll where you easily can release your catch unharmed.
Unfortunately, many recreational fishermen are not happy with their two-fish limit. I have seen the same boat, and often the same fishermen, day after day. They continue to drown eels all day, and they do not throw back anything. Fortunately, these do not number in the hundreds, but certainly in the double digits.
The three striped bass user groups each have their own allocation based on weight, not numbers of fish. You are permitted only two fish, but how much do they weigh? I posed the question to one of my DNRfriends because I must keep daily records, which are submitted to the DNR weekly. He provided a chart of weight per length and one that gives age for various length.
An 18-inch rockfish will weigh about 3 pounds, a 20-incher will weigh about 4 pounds, a 25-incher about 8 pounds, a 30-incher about 12 pounds and a 35-incher about 20 pounds.
An 18-inch rockfish is probably 4 years old, the 20-incher is between 4 and 5, the 25-incher is 6 years old, the 30-incher is about 8 and the 35-inch rock is about 10 years old.
Fishing etiquette, or lack of fishing etiquette, I should say, probably has been the most frustrating part of the week. If you choose to fish in a pack, then youmust accept the consequences. Not all boats drift the same; bumping will occur. If you do not want your boat bumped, stay out of the pack.
Some pack fishermen are a little more aggressive than others. I have run into many (literally) this week. I remember one very well.
He was most adept at slipping his boat out of the pack and in frontof other boats. When he did it to me he became very perturbed when my boat bumped his. I pointed out that he was playing the game and should accept the consequences as most boats do not have brakes.
He then positioned his boat so his anchor would rake the side of my boat.After a few very ugly words, he moved.
I've seen some dumb thingsthis week, but the dumbest came on Wednesday. Just about anyone who fishes the bay knows that you don't mess with another angler's markerbuoy. If someone has found and marked the fish, you watch out for his marker buoy.
This day, I had marked and was in the process of catching fish when two jokers got tangled up in my marker buoy. Now, that will sometimes happen, but instead of putting the buoy back as close to the original location as possible, these guys put it in their boat and were going to keep it.
Overall, it has been a tough week. The fish are there, but you are going to have to work for them. If you haven't caught yours yet, hang in there.
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.