The opening day of spring rockfish season drew relatively few fishermen to the Chesapeake Bay south of the Bay Bridge on Friday.
Part of the reason may be that legal size trophy rockfish (36 inches and longer) are hard to find. Another part of the reason is that the spring runs of bluefish have not started in Maryland's waters of the bay.
In a more normal spring, fishermen primarily would be catching blues and hoping to get lucky with a trophy striper. On Friday, few fishermen even were catching undersized stripers.
Chris Ford of Bay Ridge fished the Bay Bridge and the Eastern Shore down to Gum Thickets and brought in only one undersized striper.
"Gum Thickets has always been really good to me," Ford said. "There are a couple of spots there where I usually feel I can't miss. But not today."
Where Ford had tried going east, I had kept to the Western Shore, ranging below Thomas Point to the Wild Grounds off the West River and north above Hacketts Bar, running in 32 to 35 feet of water on the way south and in 40 to 50 feet coming north.
Although there were plenty of baitfish around, I found relatively few readings of bigger fish on the fish finder -- and those that were there weren't interested. Not in No. 19 Tonys or 9/0 Crippled Alewives, big and little bucktails and twister tails, Sassy Shads or foot-long plastic eels.
Not at 10 feet, 15 feet, 20 feet on down or while bouncing bottom.
"We fished pretty much the top 15 feet," Ford said, "figuring that the top of the water column would be the warmest and that would be where the fish were.
"We were in depths to 70 feet, but we didn't do anything except pick up a small rock near the bridge -- and it was way too small to be a keeper."
Not even the radio traffic included news of a keeper in the area of the bay from the bridges to Bloody Point, although history would indicate there must have been a few.
Last year, when the first spring season in six years ran from May 11 to May 27, on the first two days 200 trophy stripers were landed by recreational and charter-boat fishermen. Over the next 15 days, 136 trophies were caught.
More than 66,000 trips were made for trophy stripers by recreational anglers last year. Another 6,900 trips were accounted for by charter boats. The DNR figures that a total of 336 trophy stripers were caught during the 1991 season.
By the time the fall rockfish season comes around, fishermen can expect to be required to pay a $3 fee to fish for stripers.
"We do intend to implement the permit fee this fall," Torrey C. Brown, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, said recently. "It has been passed by the Assembly, and the $3 will help make it a better fishery as well."
For each permit fee collected, $1 will go to the rockfish hatchery program.
The hatchery program has been a major factor in the recovery of rockfish stocks in the Chesapeake Bay area as well as along the Atlantic Coast.
Maryland has a large contingent of competitors entered in the Bassmaster Virginia Invitational next weekend at Kerr Reservoir.
The entrants: Dennis Baldwin, Upper Falls; Delvert H. Campfield, Greenbelt; Leo (Buck) Doran, Belcamp; Frank Ippoliti, Mount Airy; Ronald E. Jensen, Clinton; Bruce Jones, Gaithersburg; Dave Kilby, Bel Air; James Marsh, Leonardtown; Dick Martin, Lothian; James D. Noell, Bowie; and Jerry Sliwinski, Parkville.
Three ways to help prevent boat electrical fires, according to BOAT/U.S.:
* The most common cause of electrical fire is a lack of circuit protection. Install a panel board for circuit breakers or fuses.
* Install a master battery switch that is accessible without opening an engine compartment. If a short occurs, a master switch can cut off power instantly.
* Wires should be held clear of bilges, and all cracked or frayed wires should be replaced immediately. Make sure all connections are clean, tight and protected from drips and spray.
BOAT/U.S. has available a free copy of the Self-Inspection Guide for 12-Volt Electrical Systems by writing BOAT/U.S. Marine Insurance, 880 S. Pickett Street, Alexandria, Va., 22304.