Peter Baker's Fishing Report, Journal

OUTDOORS

September 30, 1993|By PETER BAKER

ROCKFISH OPENER

Maryland's fall striped bass (rockfish) season opens at 5 a.m. tomorrow, and rain or shine, wind or calm, the turnout of fishermen probably will be formidable throughout the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay and its lower tributaries.

Since mid-summer, rockfish have been mixed with bluefish in many areas of the bay, and often have drawn mixed reactions from anglers pleased by their abundance and vexed by the closed season.

Now that the season is opening, of course, the stripers will begin moving away from their late summer haunts. The reason is decreasing water temperature.

For the next couple of weeks, stripers still will be found up in the shallows chasing baitfish at times, and casting to breaking schools will provide a lot of action. But as the night hours grow longer -- we already have a few minutes more than 12 hours of darkness each day -- the shallows will warm less quickly and the stripers will hold longer in deeper water.

As a result, drifting eels on the bottom is a very productive method for catching stripers at this time of year. Anyone who doubts that has not been to Love Point, the Dumping Grounds or other hot spots when dozens of boats can be crowded over one school of fish.

The eeling rig is a simple affair, a 5-0 or 6-0 hook on a 24-inch, 50-pound monofilament leader tied to a snap swivel, which is tied to an in-line sinker just heavy enough (1 to 2 ounces) to keep it on the bottom. The other end of the sinker is attached to a snap swivel tied to the line from your reel, preferably nothing lighter than, say, 14-pound mono.

The hook is baited by passing it through the eel's lips or through its eyes. The rig is lowered to the bottom and then the rod tip is lifted gently and fairly often to ensure contact. The eel, meanwhile, swims at the end of the leader while the angler drifts in his boat across the chosen area of bottom.

Best bottom areas are oyster, shell or rock and rubble. Boat position should start uptide from the school of fish, so that the drift carries the boat toward the fish rather than away from them.

Bucktails, artificial eels or even large black bass baits such as the Reaper in the 9-inch size will work as well, so long as the angler continues to work the rod to give the artificial baits action.

The seasons at a glance:

Dates -- Oct. 1-Nov. 7 for recreational fishermen in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries; Oct. 1-Nov. 21 for charter boats in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries; Sept. 15-Nov. 30 for recreational and charter-boat fishermen in Maryland's coastal waters and tributaries.

Size limits -- Minimum of 18 inches, no maximum for all fishermen in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries; minimum of 28 inches and no maximum for all fishermen in coastal waters and tributaries.

Creel limits -- One per day for all coastal fishermen and recreational fishermen in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries; two per day for charter-boat customers on the bay and its tributaries.

Special regulations -- Permissible hours for fishing and possession of stripers while on the water are 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Use of gaffs is prohibited.

/# Rock hot spots in the main bay:

Millers Island .......... off Middle River

Craig Hill Light ......... upper bay

Poole's Island ........... upper bay

Tea Kettle Shoals ........ upper bay

Tolchester ............... Eastern Shore, upper bay

Worton Point ............. Eastern Shore, upper bay

Hodge's Bar .............. upper bay

Swan Point ............... mouth of Chester, up. bay

Love Point ............... mouth of Chester, up. bay

Seven-Foot Knoll ......... mouth of Patapsco,

..... ..... ..... ........ upper bay

Belvedere Shoals ......... upper bay

Six-Foot Knoll ........... upper bay

Man of War Shoal ......... upper bay

Dumping Grounds .......... near Bay Bridge, upper bay

West Rockpile ............ Bay Bridge

East Rockpile ............ Bay Bridge

Dolly's Lump ............. just south of Bay Bridge

Hackett's Bar ............ mouth of Whitehall Bay

Tolly Point .............. mouth of Severn River

Thomas Point Light ....... mouth of South River

Brickhouse Bar ........... below Bay Bridge

....... ........ ......... off Kent Island

The Hill ....... ......... off Poplar Island,

....... ........ ......... below Bay Bridge

Old Gas Buoy ............. off Poplar Island

Stone Rock ............... mouth of Choptank

SPANISH MACKEREL LIMITS

The DNR has put into effect Spanish mackerel regulations to bring the take into line with those of all other Atlantic Coast States and the federal regulations for the Exclusive Economic Zone.

The regulations, which went into effect Monday, set a minimum length of 14 inches and a daily creel limit of 10 fish per person.

THE FISHING REPORT

**** EXCELLENT*** GOOD

**FAIR* POOR

SALT WATER

Ocean

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