Now, rock anglers to enjoy fruits of ban

On the Outdoors

August 25, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

For 80 days, starting on Friday, Maryland saltwater fishermen can experience the best rockfish angling of the year, a phenomenon they helped create and protect during a 5-year ban on the sport in the state from 1985 to the fall of 1990.

In the years since the fishery was reopened, Maryland anglers have gradually been allowed to catch more rockfish (striped bass) under quota systems, tagged catches, one-fish limits and season parameters that were subject to change, based on the number of fish caught.

In some years, seasons were shortened. In other years, seasons were lengthened.

This year, the season apparently is set in stone -- two fish per day from Aug. 30 through Nov. 17. The size minimum is 18 inches, with no maximum.

The reason for it is that the moratorium and the gradual expansion of opportunities to catch rockfish enabled the species to rebuild -- not only in the Chesapeake Bay, but also along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Maine.

The rockfish in the fall fishery are those that have yet to join the coastal migration, which is made up of spawning age females and males that return to the bay each spring. But that doesn't mean that fall rockfish are small.

According to fisheries biologists, where before the moratorium only three year classes were present in numbers that could sustain a fishery, the rockfish we will fish for this fall represent eight year classes -- through age 10 -- and that includes some large fish.

Fishing In Maryland, a publication that gives awards for large fish caught in the state, lists more than 30 anglers who caught stripers in excess of 15 pounds during the fall season in 1995.

The largest was a 29-pounder caught at the Gooses by Edgar Erwine of Chesapeake Beach on Nov. 19.

And undoubtedly there are many more anglers who caught large rockfish and did not submit their names and catches to the magazine.

According to fisheries biologists, anglers and charter-boat captains, the key to continued success in the fall season is to follow the fish.

In general, at the beginning of the season, the Upper Bay should be a hot spot. Belvedere Shoals, 7- Foot Knoll, Poole's Island, the mouth of Still Pond Creek, Bodkin Point and Love Point are all good choices for casting to numbers of breaking fish or chumming larger rock up over the medium to deep drops.

But by the third week or so of September, the stripers will have begun to move south, and the waters from the Bay Bridge to Cove Point will be productive for chummers and trollers. The Diamonds, Stone Rock, the Winter and Summer Gooses and the western shore channel edge from Holland Point south all will be good choices.

By November, when rockfish can be expected to begin holding deep except on unusually warm days, the Gooses are likely to become the places to go. Last November, according to Fishing In Maryland's list, six of 16 big stripers certified came from the Gooses -- and they ranged from 22 to 29 pounds.

The Parker's Creek area also will still produce for trollers well into November, but the rockfish action also should begin to heat up farther south on the Middle Grounds, Hooper Island Strait and Hooper Island Light, as well as into the mouth of the Potomac River.

And if by Nov. 17 one still feels the need for striper fishing, both the Potomac River Fisheries Commission season in the main stem of the Potomac River, and Virginia's fall season on the bay still will have some weeks to run.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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