ANNAPOLIS -- Tomorrow, Maryland's second fall rockfish season will be two weeks old, and recreational fishermen will probably get their full measure. However, it appears the charterboat fishery could close early.
Rumors were widespread on the bay yesterday that fishermen in both categories were approaching their quotas, and a close was imminent, perhaps by tomorrow for charters. But following a meeting in Annapolis last night, a DNR spokesmen said surveys and reports will be further analyzed. An announcement could be made in the next two days on the charter fishery due to continue until Nov. 9.
Meanwhile, the recreational fishery is expected to continue through its scheduled close Saturday -- and there remains a chance that it will reopen if any room is left in their quota of 456,747 pounds. Spokesmen for the charter industry complained vigorously to DNR last night about a premature close.
Curiously, charter skippers have been lax in sending in their catch reports, a practice that has not made accounting any easier for fisheries managers. This writer's suggestion to anyone thinking about chartering for rock is to reach for the phone right now, and book a date before the end of the week.
We might have an ironic coincidence in the making. Recreational fishermen were complaining about the charter fishery's later close; now it might shut down the same day as theirs. Last year, the charter fishery continued a week past the recreational fishery, resulting in many hard feelings -- and a few incidents.
Computers, surveys and reports aside, it is obvious to those on the bay that both recreational and charter skippers have been doing well -- at least until last Thursday when the big blow and rain moved in. For some, things didn't bound back quickly to what they were, but that would be asking too much.
It's not easy finding a charter skipper who hasn't scored consistently, filling his charter's limit of two per person a day -- especially those who drift eels. In a stretch of three consecutive days, Capt. Ed Darwin got his party's fish on either two drifts involving two drops, or three drifts involving dropping the eels three times.
I was among the four fishermen who followed those three days -- and despite winds gusting to over 20 knots -- we had our eight fish in three drops, and would have done it in two had not one fish been lost at the boat. And nice fish, they were; my best being a 16-pounder taken off the Kent Island shore about midway between the Bay Bridge and Bloody Point Light.
We then moved up the bay to just below the bridge where we tried to make an anchor set and bottom-fish for a niche of sea bass the skipper had located. But despite strong winds coming down the bay, the incoming tide was so forceful it pushed the Becky D northward into the breeze ruining efforts to stay above a small wreck.
We took refuge behind one of the bridge's stone piles and turned to jigging and casting to breaking blues of 9 to 14 inches. For an hour, the action was fast whether the fish were on the surface or not, and we had our limit of 10 bluefish each.
Companion Charlie Bryan said jigging a yellow jig, with a small drop sinker in front of the leader for blues, was as much fun as eeling for the larger rock, but we did take many small rock, which we promptly released with no evident mortality.
The Becky D's fishfinder showed large rock flat on the bottom, but thankfully they wanted neither the jigs the others were casting deep, nor the Atom Popper I worked close to the stones. Smaller rock of 6 to 15 inches wanted our lures, even when we intentionally worked them fast for blues.
One fellow aboard the nearby small Sea Squirt found the larger rock with what appeared to be a drifted eel. After reeling one in and dipping it with a net, he was holding it up when its began thrashing, and over the side it went with a big splash.
He still had some luck left because the fish was still solidly hooked, he reeled it in again, this time kept it low in the boat and after removing the hook put it in the box.