It's been a good season for big rockfish

On the Outdoors

November 16, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Maryland's fall rockfish season ends tomorrow at 9 p.m., and while the number of fishermen out during the recent cold snap has dwindled steadily, the number of big rockfish caught in some areas of the bay has been increasing.

According to reports compiled by Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Martin L. Gary, the lower bay in particular has been the site of large catches by trollers using bucktails, parachutes or umbrella rigs.

The average size of rockfish caught in 40 to 60 feet of water from either side of the shipping channel from Cedar Point south to the mouth of the Potomac River has been 30 to 35 inches, with a number of fish in the 38- to 42-inch range.

According to Gary, these are coastal migrants, which have spent the warmer months in New England waters.

Generally, the coastal fish also winter offshore to the south of the mouth of the Chesapeake. But for the past few years, increasing numbers have been caught in Maryland waters of the bay late in the fall season.

After the close of Maryland's fall season, rockfish anglers still can follow the fish south into Virginia waters, where the season is open until Dec. 31. Virginia also has a two-fish per-day limit and a minimum size limit of 18 inches.

The Potomac River Fisheries Commission season also will remain open with a limit of two fish per day and an 18-inch minimum. The PRFC season closes Dec. 15.

Along Maryland's Atlantic coast, meanwhile, the rockfish season is open year-round with a 28-inch minimum and a limit of two per day -- and the fishery for migratory stripers is heating up quickly.

According to catch reports, large rockfish are being taken more frequently at the Ocean City inlet on drifted live eels, and large numbers of rockfish to 25 pounds have been schooling and moving through the inshore shoals from Delaware Bay to Chincoteague.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake Bay -- Overall, fishing effort and catch reports were off significantly, due to cold, windy weather. Love Point and Baltimore Light still produce some rockfish for trollers and chummers.

Middle Chesapeake Bay -- Chummers at Stone Rock, Diamonds, The Hill and the western side of the shipping channel below the South River still taking rockfish, but size and number are diminishing. Best trolling has been in the Parkers Creek area, which has been a good choice for larger late-season stripers the past few years. Sea trout along deeper channel edges. White perch from Thomas Point to Hacketts.

Lower Chesapeake Bay -- Largest fish being taken by trollers working 40- to 60-foot depths of shipping channel edges with bucktails, parachutes or umbrella rigs. Chummers catching smaller fish in 17- to 24-inch range in depths from 20 to 40 feet, with HS Buoy and No. 72 good locations. Schools of smaller rockfish breaking throughout the area, with sea trout hanging beneath them. Best sea trout fishing has been deep, whether trolling or jigging. Deep trolling still turning up rockfish in Tangier Sound, along with sea trout.

Ocean City -- Some larger bluefish beginning to show up in the surf, as they migrate south. Tautog and some larger rockfish at the inlet. Offshore, large rockfish schooled and lingering on inshore lumps as they move through.

Pub Date: 11/16/96

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