First two weeks offer reel rockfish action

April 24, 1994|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Sun Staff Writer

The spring trophy season for striped bass opens next Sunday at 5 a.m. with a new minimum-size limit of 34 inches. Anglers may catch and keep up to three rockfish during May, but the best fishing usually comes in the first two weeks of the month.

The reason is that the trophy-size fish, once they have completed the spawn in the tidal interface areas of the Chesapeake Bay tributaries, will leave the bay for the migration north along the Atlantic coast.

Given the cold, wet days of March and early April, there was some concern among biologists with the Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Biological Laboratories that the spawn would be late.

"Even though the temperatures were low in the upper rivers for a while longer than usual," said Pete Jensen, director of DNR's Tidewater Fisheries Division, "the spawn is sort of right on schedule now -- even to the point that we think it could be all over in the Choptank already."

In the upper bay, which is greatly influenced by the cold freshwater flow from the Susquehanna River, Jensen said, the spawn might be a little behind schedule, which might mean there could be very good fishing around the Bay Bridge.

DNR has set a cap of 5,000 fish for the monthlong season and Jensen said that he does not believe the change from a 36- to 34-inch minimum size will enable recreational fishermen to reach the cap.

L Should the cap be reached, however, DNR will end the season.

Avian Cholera

The outbreak of avian cholera, which began in February and lasted through March, resulted in the deaths of more than 35,000 waterfowl in Maryland and Virginia, according to the DNR.

Waterfowl losses were confined to the Chesapeake Bay, with the exception of one tundra awan in Dorchester County and an osprey in Talbot County.

"This may have been one of the largest outbreaks of avian cholera in North America," said Larry Hindman, supervisor of Maryland's Migratory Bird Program. "The dead birds we find washing ashore only represent a percentage of the actual mortality."

The deaths were mostly among diving ducks such as oldsquaw and buffleheads, although carcasses of scoters, goldeneye, swans, loon, grebes and gulls also were recovered.

The actual number of waterfowl lost may be more than 50,000, which would put this outbreak on par with similar outbreaks of the disease in 1970 and 1978.

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