The Striped Bass Advisory Board had its Halloween party a day early this year.
At a meeting in Matapeake, members discussed reopening the fall recreational striped bass season.
Recreational anglers were permitted to catch two fish during fromOct. 9 to 26, an arrangement created after complaints surfaced that the 1990 season was closed before everyone had an opportunity to fish.
Wednesday, one of the recreational representatives said he considered the first portion of the season great. He said that he had taken five trips with 20 different people and caught 11 fish.
He also said that he saw an unusually large number of women and children fishing (because of the two fish per tag); probably more than during the normal fishing season.
Fishermen I talked to were not so positive.They complained that they could catch only two fish for the whole season.
"What are we doing," several asked, "saving the fish for thefishermen in New York and Massachusetts?"
Most anglers I talked to said they thought the creel limit should have been two fish per person per day until the allocation was caught up.
During the first week of the season, 83,000 anglers caught 92,000 pounds. By the end ofthe second week, the number of anglers had grown to 116,000 and the catch to 208,000 pounds. At season's end, the total number of anglerswas 109,000 and the catch approximately 339,000 pounds. That leaves a balance of approximately 115,000 pounds available for the second portion of the season.
Since the recreational allocation has not been caught up, the advisory board voted to reopen the season.
Duringthe season, anglers averaged catching 16,000 pounds per day on week days and 25,000 pounds on weekend days. No one would take me up on mywager that second-season daily numbers would not exceed 25,000 pounds.
The second season was set for yesterday and today and Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Not totally nailed down was whether the season would continue the following weekend if any of the allocation remains.
The state Department of Natural Resources has ruled that the allocation is for the recreational angler, not charter boats.
The charter boat exclusion will be difficult to enforce, but all the charter captains I've talked to say they'll honor DNR's position.
"I've built my business on honesty and integrity," said Capt. Ed Darwin. "I'm not about to change now."
Capt. George Horn said, "I've never had an illegal fish on my boat, and I don't plan to start now."
No matter how they feel about the first half of the season, none of the charter captains I spoke with said they would cheat.
And cheating waswidespread. Throughout the entire striped bass moratorium, I never saw an angler keep a rockfish, but during the 2 1/2-week season, I sawdozens of boats return to the fishing grounds day after day after they had caught their two fish.
How do we combat the cheating? One way is brute-force enforcement. Another is provide good representationfor the recreational fishermen on the advisory board. If they feel they are getting the best deal available, they will be less likely to break the rules.
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.