Rockfish season looks promising

OUTDOORS

September 26, 1993|By LONNY WEAVER

This year's fall striped bass (rockfish) season is set to begin Friday, and Anne Arundel County anglers will find themselves in the middle of the best fishing prospects.

Traditional middle Chesapeake Bay hot spots include the area around the Bay Bridges pilings, Eastern Bay, Thomas Point, the Magothy River area, the Chester River area and around Love Point, plus one end of the Choptank to the other. Farther south, in the Potomac, you will find a staggering number of 18-inch and better rockfish.

My game plan is to open on the Choptank, and on the next trip hit the Bay Bridge area and, possibly Eastern Bay. I'll probably do the Choptank with my friend, Keith Walters.

Walters, who wrote "Chesapeake Stripers," won the first Maryland Sportfishing Tournament when he was living in Cape St. Claire in 1964. That fish hit the scales at 32 1/2 pounds.

"Talk about luck!," Walters said. "It was Oct. 10 and I tossed a 7/8 -ounce blue and white Atom plug at the propeller of the old Love Point Wreck, and almost immediately the monster rock hit it and my problems began."

Walters was using what most of us were at the time -- a Mitchell 306 reel, "but, it had a jerky drag and I thought for sure my line would pop with every rush that fish made. Then, just to keep things extra interesting, my reel's bail spring broke and I had to alternately hold the bail closed and try to crank the handle as I played the fish. I loosened the drag as much as I could."

Walters remembers that he "played it about 20 or 30 minutes before it was boat side and my fishing partner, Jerry Rayburn, was afraid of gaffing the fish and losing it."

Everyone who saw the fish raved about its size and encouraged Walters to enter it in the new state-sponsored tournament.

"I dragged it into Chuck and Don's Tackle Store in Parole, and a slightly amazed Chuck Prahl weighed the animal for me. It was obviously the winner, Prahl told me," Walters said.

"Then I took it home, Carol [his wife] took some more pictures and guess what I did next? Yep, cleaned it and ate it! How dumb could I have been, right?"

Those were considered the glory days of rockfishing, but we might have even better days ahead. This year's Young of the Year Index is the highest ever recorded -- 39.6 against the 23.5 recorded in 1964, the year of Walter's winning catch.

Based on my days on the water these past few weeks, I have to finger the Choptank and Potomac as best bets. I did not spend much time above the Bay Bridge this year, and friends tell me the Sharpes-Miller area also should be incredible.

Maryland's charter-boat season continues through Nov. 21, while the badly named "recreational" season is scheduled to conclude Nov. 7. If you're fishing from a charter boat, the limit is two daily, and one a day if you are not paying a charter captain.

I truly hate this distinction among those who have access to a privately owned boat and those who do not. Both groups are recreational anglers, and that daily limit only sours the situation.

If you are fishing from a charter, you do not need the $2 striped bass permit required of everyone else.

At least if you bought the $2 permit for the spring season, you don't have to buy another this fall.

The rockfish season set for the Virginia portion of the bay is Oct. 28 through Dec. 19 on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only. The daily limit is two per person.

The Potomac River Fisheries Commission has set a Potomac season for Oct. 1-19 and Nov. 5-14 with one rock daily between and 36 inches. Maryland has dropped the maximum size limit, but retains the 18-inch minimum.

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