Two weeks ago, The Sun published a brief question box on possible changes to Maryland's seasons for rockfish. Readers were asked to indicate a preference among three combinations of spring and fall seasons, state what kind of angler they are and invited to enclose additional comments.
The 110 acceptable responses showed a preference for a spring trophy season, a limited June season and an October season for charter boats and private fishermen. This scenario, which was the second of three listed in the question box, drew 69 responses.
FTC The first scenario, spring trophy season and October-November season for charter boats and private fishermen, drew 34 responses.
The third scenario, spring trophy season and fall season for charter boats and private fishermen and a limited June season for charter boats only, drew seven responses.
Another 11 question boxes were returned to The Sun through Friday, but all contained variations of the three listed options or incomplete information and were not counted.
In many cases, in acceptable and unacceptable responses, readers included additional comment. Perhaps the comments of readers and fishermen are the real value of such a survey.
The breakdown of types of fishermen for all responses was 11 charter boat customers or operators; 30 charter boat customers and private fishermen, and 79 private fishermen.
The following is a selection of readers' opinions on Maryland's rockfish seasons (responses have been edited, in some cases):
* Richard Blazek, Baltimore: "I do not condone a trophy season of any kind. I think we are playing dangerous games so soon after lifting the moratorium [in 1990]. . . . Fishing for bluefish on June 3, we caught four rockfish at 10-15 pounds, and three looked full of roe. . . . I do not agree to any special privileges for anyone, charter boats or whomever. Let's not mess up the resource again. . . . I prefer a fall season, only earlier, say starting Sept. 15 at two fish per man until the quota is caught."
* Richard Novotny, Baltimore: "The seasons should be May 1-June 30 and Sept. 15-Nov. 15 at one fish per day."
* John Streb, Baltimore: "I am totally opposed to an early spring trophy season. Far too many 'almost 36-inch' fish are caught, released and die from stress and improper handling. Fall season is great; June season would be OK."
* Matthew McCormick Jr., Baltimore: "I do not think a June season should be opened to boost charter-boat bookings because of poor bookings earlier in the spring. What about statistics? Young of the year? Hook and release mortality? They [DNR] should wait for better planning."
* Barry Marseglia, Baltimore: "A trophy, June and fall season would be great for the total fishing industry, but I am not sure how well the stripers would come out after all this. The mortality rate for the fish should be our first concern, and not the fishing itself."
* Robert Walter, Baltimore: "None of these seasons is worth a damn. Remember when the moratorium was first passed ? Everybody said, well, we still have the bluefish. In the upper bay I used to catch all the bluefish I could eat from early May to late June. . . . Now all I am catching is striped bass. No. I am killing them. Why don't they move the fall season to June?. . . . Who needs a fall season, anyway?"
* Gary Graybeal, Conowingo, Md.: "Problems with declining and unstable rockfish numbers can be partly blamed on the management of the Conowingo Dam. Water flow from the dam is much too sporadic to allow proper spawning. Low flows are devastating to all the spawn deposited during high water flows. This erratic water volume exposes the spawn to dry conditions and predators. . . . Also, the catwalk should be closed to all fishing during the spawning season."
* Capt. Kerry Muse, Edgewater: "My customers were happy with the recent trophy season, but would have loved to take home at least one fish. My suggestion, in addition to the trophy fish, is one fish per person per day, minimum size 28 inches, and no roe-bearing females. In June we are fishing for blues and drum. Let's not put any additional pressure on the rockfish in June. . . . The November season is useless for charter boats and private boats. . . . Someday, we should be thinking about one fish per person per day, May 1-Nov. 1, for everyone. This way, you don't force people to cheat."
* Mike Miller, Bel Air: I am a recent arrival to the Baltimore area, moving from Los Angeles. . . . I am intrigued by the striper controversy. The problem with having two very limited seasons is the extreme pressure it causes. The mortality rate in undersized fish must be quite dramatic, and the last kind of pressure you want to put on a recovering species. The solution -- based on my experience with halibut and white sea bass in California -- is simple: reverse the pattern. The season should be open year-around except for four to six weeks during the spawning season. Also, it would help if the rockfish were made a gamefish throughout its range."
* David Badwak, Pasadena: "I do not believe that any of the user groups should be allowed to fish for striped bass in the spring, as this constitutes reducing the available spawning stock. I realize that the number of fish caught is a small percentage of the available spawners . . . [but] all of the user groups are asking too much too fast. The recovery of the striped bass is still in progress."