Catch-release no vacation for rockfish

On the Outdoors

June 27, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Today marks the beginning of the last week of the spring and early summer rockfish seasons, which close at the end of fishing on July 4 until the morning of Aug. 30.

Through July and August, catch-and-release fishing for rockfish is permitted in Maryland Chesapeake Bay tidal waters and the season in the state's Atlantic coastal waters continues with a 28-inch minimum.

In the bay and its tributaries, however, catch-and-release can be a dangerous time for rockfish, which have been carefully rebuilt from extremely low numbers in the early and mid 1980s.

In the summer, when the bay water temperature rises, rockfish are more easily stressed by being hooked, played, boated and released.

Studies by the Department of Natural Resources indicate that rockfish hooked in waters over 70 degrees with low salinity sometimes die as a result of stress and injury. Surface temperature in the Middle Bay area already is in the middle 70s.

Salt content in bay waters diminishes gradually, but from the Choptank River north salinity can be at marginal levels, while from the mouth of the Gunpowder River to the head of the bay the salinity levels are almost always unacceptable through mid-September, when waters begin to cool.

Keys to protecting rockfish are to bulk up your rig, use barbless hooks, set the hook quickly and carry a dehooker.

Heavier line will allow smaller, more susceptible fish to be brought to hand quickly, with a minimum of stress on them.

Setting the hook quickly should result in fewer deep takes by the fish and fewer internal injuries.

Barbless hooks -- or those which have had the barbs crimped off -- are easier to remove, resulting in less handling of the fish. And a de-hooker makes it easier still to release fish in the water.

Go a step further and wear soft cloth or rubber gloves when handling fish, or keep a clean, damp towel nearby. Using gloves or a damp towel will prevent unnecessary damage to the fish's slimy covering.

Coastal updates

Squid and minnow combinations continue to take lots of flounder along channel edges in the back bays, but number of smaller fish in the area has been increasing and is now estimated at 10 to 1. Best areas are deep channel edges. Best times are start of flood tide and end of ebb tide. Sea trout reported from the inlet piers. Small blues, sea trout and smallish rockfish in the surf. Rockfish action (minimum here remains 28 inches and limit of two per day) fair at Route 50 bridge.

The first run of bluefin and yellowfin tuna is picking up and the first white marlin of the season was taken at Washington Canyon. Bluefin taken along 20 fathom line, yellowfin farther out, along 78 degree break.

Chesapeake Bay update

In the lower bay, chummers at the Middle Grounds, Triangle and Airplane Wreck. Catches ranged up to 32 inches. Middle Grounds, upper Tangier Sound and Hooper Island Straits very good for croaker. Other good areas are Honga River, Mud Leads and the Potomac up to the Route 301 bridge. Some sea trout mixed with croaker. Flounder fishing best in lower Tangier Sound.

In the middle bay, trollers along channel edges off from No. 83 to Parkers Creek have done well for rockfish on white bucktails or parachutes. Chummers at the Hill, Stone Rock and No. 1 have produced good rockfish action but few keepers. Croaker action at Sharp's Island Light, mouth of Deal Harbor, 25-foot contour line off the Flag Ponds and Cook Point. Good white perch fishing at the mouth of the Severn, West and South rivers.

Upper bay fishermen are doing very well with late-season rockfish, although sizes are well mixed. Love and Swann points are good choices, along with Bay Bridge, Dumping Grounds, Sewer Pipe and dropoffs at the mouth of the Patapsco. White perch action at Fort Carroll, Key Bridge, Belvedere Shoals, 7-Foot Knoll and the lumps off Gibson Island.

River reports

Recent rains again have rivers high and muddy. Drifted eels or live-lined white perch have been taking rockfish in the Susquehanna from Roberts Island to the Route 95 bridge. On the tidal Potomac, edges of grass beds have been best for largemouth bass.

Reservoir updates

At Loch Raven, plastic worms and lizards will take bass from along weed beds. Crappie and bluegill schooled and suspended in coves. At Liberty, striped bass on trolled or drifted shiners from Route 32 to Oakland Point. Bass along shorelines early and crappie close to the beaverhuts. At Piney Run, crappie suspended deeper water, bass along shorelines early or late and catfish to 3 pounds on night crawlers. At Deep Creek Lake action for big bluegills has been excellent in the shallows.

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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