Charter Captains Bemoan Dud Striped Bass Season

OUTDOORS

November 01, 1991|By Capt. Bob Spore

The Striped Bass Advisory Board met Wednesday evening at Matapeake and recommended that the state reopen the recreational striped bass season beginning tomorrow and Sunday and next Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The daily creel limit will be one fish per angler, and all size limits will remain the same. But the daily closing time has been pushed back to 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.

Charter boats will be permitted to carry family and friends fishing but not run striped bass charters during the extended season.

The recreational segment of the advisory board also white-washed any complaints about cheating by recreational fishermen during the initialsegment of the season. Board members called it hearsay evidence.

Well, when you are dropping eels on rockfish and you keep bumping into the same boat every day with the same fishermen aboard, and they are catching fish and putting them in the box every day, that ain't hearsay, that's cheating!

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The closing days of the 1991 charter boat striped bass season were unique. Let's subtract the hard feelingsand disgust the captains felt toward state officials, who cut the season short, and deal with the period like history. First a bit of background.

The Great Depression of 1991 pushed the charter boat industry to an all-time low. Some captains reported charters off as much as 70 percent. They looked at the fall striped bass season as a chance to get well financially and booked every charter they could get.

When you run fishing charters every day, you quickly find yourself in another world. You are in bed by 8:30 p.m. and your sole interest is the weather (is it fishable?) and what the fish are doing. You don't give a damn about what is happening with the stock market, world peace or your local community.

You rise long before it is light to get the boat ready. You spend the day with your eyes glued to the depth finder and one or two radios (VHF marine and CB) blasting. And whenthe party has finished shaking hands and left, you clean up the messand get ready for another trip tomorrow.

There will be time for aquick dinner and a couple of phone calls to share information on theday's activity. Information this important is never put on the air.

Add to this scenario four days of dense fog, with visibility of 100 to 200 feet, and you can see how we ended the season.

Many of the captains and other boaters in the Bay Bridge area had an additionalwrinkle as their Loran-C units did not work when thefog was at its worst. Loran-C is navigation equipment that guides boaters when visibility is poor. Having it go out when you needed it the most was particularly distressing.

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I think I have solved the Loran-C mystery. We live in the worst Loran-C habitat in the United States. The Navy's transmitter site at Greenbury Point broadcasts a signal near the frequency of the Loran-C signal. Many of the Loran-C manufacturers have included filters to handle this problem.

I've been told by several engineers and other knowledgeble individuals that fog attenuates aground-wave signal such as Loran-C (broadcast on 100 kHz). I think that boaters in the Bay Bridge area were hit with a combination of weakened Loran-C signal strength from the fog and the normal interference from the Navy (Greenbury Point is just below the Bay Bridge).

Either of the two problems probably would not have been noticed, but the combination put the units out of business.

Captains above the Patapsco River were not affected, nor were captains in the Deale area. I checked with Navy officials, who said they did not broadcast anything abnormal last week.

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