Sorry, Santa came up a bit short for Maryland's perch fishermen. Some hoped-for yellow ned regulations won't be implemented next year.
But maybe the jolly fellow in the red suit can come up with something that's needed on the rockfish front -- foolproof tags for the fall season, the details of which are about to be deliberated within the Striped Bass Advisory Board.
First, yellow perch. There was speculation the DNR would open the Choptank and West River watersheds and the Marshyhope. But fisheries managers have decided against it for the time being, though the Tuckahoe sector of the Choptank will be open in '92.
While not good, next year's outlook is probably the best in a decade, especially on the Eastern Shore and in Southern Maryland. Several years ago, strict curtailments were imposed as the fishery declined to its lowest level on record, but since then there are indications of a comeback in most wa
ters -- which should tell us something of the effect of fishing pressure on a species.
Perch regulations are complicated under DNR's guidelines, which reflect aggressive management. It's an effort to allow the optimum effort while not endangering the comeback. Thus, the rules are different in different places.
First off, there never has been a problem in the freshwater fishery, thus there is neither creel nor size limits in non-tidal waters. But once below the sweetwater line, things are different.
In all tidal waters, the creel limit is five a day, and from Feb. 1 through March 15 all those fishing for yellow perch -- and those with a perch in their possession -- can use only single barbless hooks.
Among waters open for perch with a minimum size limit of 8 1/2 inches will be Potomac complex, also the Wicomico complex on the Western Shore (as opposed to the Eastern Shore's #i Wicomico), and the Pocomoke, also the upper Chesapeake area
from Back River (above the Patapsco, which remains closed).
Allens Fresh, probably the best yellow perch'n waters in Maryland the past 25 years, lies within the Western Shore's Wicomico jurisdiction, and again will be open. It is located in Charles County at the hamlet of Allens Fresh on State Route 234 east of Route 301 about eight miles south of LaPlata. Included in the upper bay's open area are Back, Bush, Susquehanna, Northeast, Elk, Bohemia and Sassafras rivers. Remaining closed and with low perch populations -- are the once very popular South, Severn and Magothy rivers.
Other watersheds closed are the Chester, Miles, Nanticoke, West and Choptank with the exception of the Tuckahoe, which will have a 9-inch minimum size. Also once closed, but open with the 9-inch mimimum are the Wye and the Patuxent rivers.
The Patuxent's run at Weysons Corners has shown improvement, so -- but to a lesser degree -- has the Wye at Wye Run and Wye Landing. For several years, the Wye was boosted with juveniles raised in the Elkton hatchery. That program will continue, though the DNR purchase of adult yellow perch from upper bay commercial fishermen for stocking in other hard-hit waters will be dropped in '92.
In many areas, the upper bay in particular, the commercial fishery continues with an 8 1/2 -inch minimum, but the sale of yellow perch will again be prohibited during February. On the rockfish side, DNR fisheries chief Paul Massicot said his department and the advisory board places highest on its priority list fixed seasons for 1992. Every effort will be made -- on the basis of two years of fishing -- to plan seasons that will run their course, and close on schedule. No more premature closings, or extensions, if at all possible.
Also needed in this writer's view is a foolproof tag system for the fall fishery, even if it means fishermen pay for their permits to cover the costs involved. It's too late for the DNR to include a pay-for-permit program in its legislative package for the upcoming session of the General Assembly, but word is that some legislators would consider doing it on their own.