Anglers caught by rockfish numbers

October 27, 1991|By Peter Baker

The charterboat season for rockfish ends tonight, and fisheries managers will decide this week whether the recreational season, which ended its first phase yesterday, will be extended.

Ten days ago, it seemed that the seasons were going according to plan. There were, however, already changes in the works because fisheries biologists had concerns about the charterboat catch being fast and furious -- and the captains cannot deny that the fishing was good.

What seems to gripe some of them is that there appear to be a tremendous number of stripers in the bay this year -- and more big fish around than some of them ever have seen.

So, what happened?

Basically, Maryland is caught in a numbers game it may not be able to win.

The Chesapeake Bay is the premier breeding ground on the East Coast for rockfish. The mature stripers come in each spring to spawn and then return to the Atlantic Ocean and migrate north along the coast, where they become targets for the folks in Delaware, New Jersey, New York and New England.

Younger stripers stay in the bay year around until they are old enough to join the coastal stocks. For example, those hordes of 16- to 17-inch stripers that have been caught and released this fall are from the year class of 1989.

Next year those fish will be of legal size, and one fisheries biologist said that if this year the bay seemed full of rockfish, just wait until next year. "You will be absolutely amazed," he said.

So, why can't Marylanders get a decent shot at these fish?

Maryland, the bedroom and nursery for stripers, is required to follow the guidelines of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a group that regulates recreational and commercial fisheries along the coast.

The ASMFC, which serves many masters, has the eventual say in how many fish Marylanders may catch and when -- and the ASMFC is taking no chances that the stocks of stripers will fall to the levels they were before and during the moratorium.

So, if it begins to seem as if Marylanders are not getting their fair share, you may be right.

"It is like paying out dollars," one charterboat captain said, "and getting a few pennies in return."

* Five Marylanders have qualified for the Red Man Regional Championship at Kerr Lake in Virginia this week: Anthony Vicari, Chester J. Sadowski III and Dick Martin of Baltimore, Bob Dobart of Rosedale and Ed Loughran of Bethesda.

The winner of the regional will qualify for the Red Man All-America tournament, which has a $100,000 first prize.

* Maryland Trout Unlimited's conservation banquet will be held Nov. 9 at the Towson Sheraton. The annual fund raiser is the largest source of revenue for the chapter's resource projects, such as the operation of the Jones Falls hatchery, monitoring area trout streams and advocacy at state and local levels to maintain and enhance Maryland trout streams.

Tickets to the banquet are $50 each. For more information, call 653-2917.

Steel shot for waterfowl

Non-toxic steel shot is now mandatory for waterfowl hunters in Maryland and the rest of the country. In Maryland, non-toxic steel shot is required for waterfowl hunting in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, St. Mary's, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties. Possession of lead shot while hunting waterfowl or coots is illegal. The following are recommendations for steel shot size and choke selection.

D:Bird and range... ... ... ... Shot size... ... ... Choke

Teal, all distances... ... .. 6, 5... .. ... ... ..Improved cylinder,

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. modified

Ducks, under 40 yards... ... .6, 5, 4, 3... ... .. Improved cylinder

Ducks, 30 to 50 yards... ... .4, 3, 2... ... ... ..Improved cylinder,

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. modified

Ducks, beyond 50 yards... ... 2, 1... ... ... ... .Modified, improved

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. Modified, full

Brant, snow geese, white fronted

geese and small Canada geese

under 50 yards... ... ... ... 1, BB... ... ... ... Improved cylinder,

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. modified

Canada geese, all distances and

geese beyond 50 yards... ... .BB, T, BBB... ... .. Improved, modified

Source: Tom Roster, Maryland ballistics consultant.

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