Rockfish aren't alone as a comeback story Flounder, croaker, sea trout show signs of rebounding

August 09, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Rockfish, it seems, get most of the attention as species of fish successfully restored after decades of overfishing in bay and coastal waters of Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic states. However, there are indications that flounder, croaker and sea trout also are rebounding from years of over-exploitation.

Croaker, of course, have been larger and more numerous in the Chesapeake Bay than has been the case for many years, and state fisheries biologists say the repeated annual abundance may ensure a strong future.

Summer flounder numbers also are up, especially in the Atlantic coastal back bays behind Ocean City and Assateague, even though many of the fish currently being hooked and released are under the legal minimum size.

Nonetheless, said Fisheries Service biologist Martin L. Gary, the long-term outlook appears to be bright.

"The fishery looks to be about two years away from being absolutely outstanding," Gary said. "We currently have a huge abundance of small fluke as a result of good year classes the past two years, and now it looks like this year's reproduction is going to be very good."

To further assist the recovery of flounder, minimum size limits soon will be increased from 14.5 inches to 15 inches.

Results of DNR surveys of juvenile populations of sea trout and croaker in the back bays also show good reproduction this year.

According to a report prepared by Fisheries Service biologists -- Carol Markham and Jim Uphoff, the mean size of sea trout caught offshore has been increasing since 1993.

Recreational catches in the Chesapeake Bay, however, were 188,683 pounds in 1996, the third-lowest on record since 1981. Markham and Uphoff note, however, that the low catch rate may be attributable in part to the 14-inch minimum size limit in the recreational fishery.

Record pending

Sarah Trathner of Ocean Pines has applied for an IGFA all-tackle junior angler record for an 8-pound sea trout caught at Ocean City on Aug. 1. The 9-year-old caught the fish on a squid bait off the south jetty.

Sea bass closure

The closure of the black sea bass fishery in state and federal waters off Maryland Aug. 1 was to reduce overfishing and to meet the parameters of a coastwide recovery schedule.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and Maryland's Department of Natural Resources will lift the ban on Aug. 16.

J/24 world champ

Terry Hutchinson of Annapolis skippered Team Evita to the J/24 World Championship recently in San Francisco.

Sailing with Dave Crocker, Dave Moffet, Matt Beck and Will Jeffers, Hutchinson won the championship by one point over defending titlist Vince Brun.

Entering the final race of the championship series, Hutchinson, who works for Quantum Sail Design Group in Annapolis, trailed Brun by nine points.

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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