West side story: stripers caught

OUTDOORS

May 08, 1994|By PETER BAKER

On opening day of the spring trophy season for rockfish in Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay, John Sank, Gary Geisler and Mark Faust of Pasadena were trolling parachutes and sassy shads south of the bay bridge.

Geisler caught a 48-inch striper weighing 40 pounds and Faust caught a 38-incher weighing 27 pounds. Among them they hooked and lost three other fish.

"We were one of only a few boats fishing the western shore side of the bridge," Sank said. "We went to the Eastern Shore first, but it was crowded and we went back across the channel. Three of the five we hooked up with were taken from the western shore."

While Sank and company were having a great opener on stripers running the gauntlet at the bridge, most fishermen above nTC Tilghman Island were having less success through the first six days of the season.

Through midday Friday, 313 trophy stripers had been reported to the Department of Natural Resources. Catches reported on opening day last Sunday numbered 75.

Marty Gary of DNR's recreational fisheries office said Friday that the most productive area for trophy fish was well-defined during the first week of what is potentially a month-long season.

"Most of the reported catches have come from an area that runs from a line from Chesapeake Beach to Tilghman Island, then south to a line from Cedar Point to the mouth of the Honga River," Gary said.

"There have been some reported from Bloody Point and up that way toward the bay bridge, but they have been very few."

The Middle Grounds and the waters off the mouth of the Potomac River have been slow for rockfish, Gary said. "But the charterboats out of Solomons did really well -- some of them limited out on the first day."

Boots Conner of Bunky's Charters in Solomons said Friday that on opening day 35 to 40 trophies were brought into his docks alone.

"On Sunday we had them up to 40 pounds," Conner said. "But since, the weather has had them off. We just can't get the weather to work."

And in the long term that may be a very good thing.

Before the start of the spring season, some fishermen were worried that with the minimum size reduced from 36 to 34 inches, the cap of 5,000 fish would be reached early this month and DNR would close the season.

Pete Jensen, director of DNR's Tidewater Administration, said a couple of weeks ago that reaching the cap was unlikely. Last year there was a cap of 3,000, and recreational fishermen fell short of that figure by roughly 500.

So far this season, with Maryland's lower bay waters yet to get going for rockfish and the upper parts of the middle bay -- from Poplar Island to the bridge -- still relatively slow, indications seem to be that the season will last.

The bay waters above the bridge and all Maryland tributaries are closed for rockfish during the spring season.

Conner said there has been an added plus in the Solomons area -- good catches of croaker to 12.5 inches. The croaker fishing is heating up in the Crisfield areas as well.

"But," Conner said, "we can't get many people to fish for them yet. Rockfish is all that people want right now."

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