Spring Season For Rockfish Opens Tomorrow

On the Outdoors

April 24, 1997|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The spring season for striped bass opens tomorrow at 5 a.m., and through the end of May, tens of thousands of fishermen can be expected to be out angling for their piece of the rock.

The minimum length for keepers until June 1 is 32 inches and there is a limit of one per person per day. During the early spring season, fishing specifically for striped bass (rockfish) in Maryland waters is allowed only on the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay from Brewerton Channel at the mouth of the Patapsco River south to the Virginia line.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, which has had survey crews out on rockfish spawning grounds, the spawn has peaked in some rivers and has yet to start in others.

The spring season for rockfish is targeted at adult stripers that already have spawned in the watershed's tributaries and are migrating out of the spawning grounds and the bay to join a coastal migration to New England waters.

On the Potomac River, for example, DNR reports there has been one minor spawn and the next time several warm days run together the peak spawn could be triggered.

On the Nanticoke River, however, the peak spawn occurred in the first week of this month and included spawners weighing as much as 80 pounds.

But in the upper bay, the spawning grounds that provide the migrants through the bay areas many Baltimore-area anglers fish above the Bay Bridge, surveyors note they have encountered only non-ripe females and the spawn has yet to begin.

Throughout Maryland's rockfish spawning grounds, however, adult stripers are in the spawning reaches and priming for the big event -- which bodes well for the first few weeks of the spring season, as migrants will be on the move out the bay through that period and probably longer.

Best trolling baits for spring stripers are white bucktails or parachutes with white or chartreuse plastic shad imitations or twister tails. Baits should be 6 to 10 inches in overall length to imitate large menhaden, on which stripers feed this time of year.

While the focus of many fishermen will be on rockfish, there also are reports of a strong presence of croaker in Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds and into the Honga River, with some weighing three pounds.

On the oceanside, flounder have been moving northward over the past few weeks and catches have been reported at the Thorofare in Ocean City, along with a few snapper blues and tautog at the jetties. The mackerel run continues to be strong.

New limits on summer flounder are a 14.5-inch minimum and a creel of 10 per day.

White perch runs have been off in many bay tributaries, but in the Susquehanna River, the best of the perch fishing is just beginning. Smallmouth bass action is good there, too.

On the Flats and in the Gunpowder-Middle River complex, largemouth bass fishing has been picking up, and catfish action has steadily improved in the Chester River from Rolph's Wharf to Chestertown.

In fresh water, Loch Raven, Liberty and Piney Run reservoirs all have good crappie fishing, with occasional stripers taken at Liberty and Piney Run. Loch Raven anglers also are hitting on northern pike at the upper end of the reservoir and bass in the coves.

On the middle and upper Potomac, smallmouth fishing is reported to be fair, with water temperatures running in the low to mid 50s.

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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