Later this month, Maryland will ask approval from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for expanded rockfish seasons and changes in creel limits.
"For the last three years, recreational anglers in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay have not caught their allocation of striped bass [rockfish]," DNR secretary John R. Griffin said.
"Our proposal continues the conservative management of the fishery, while allowing anglers additional days and a change in the creel limit."
The proposal, which has been approved by the ASMFC's striped bass technical committee, would allow the following:
April 23-May 31: One fish per person, with a 28-inch minimum. Fishing would be restricted to the mainstem of the bay from a line between the Patapsco River and Swan Point south to the Virginia line, including Tangier and Pocomoke sounds.
June 1-12: One fish per person at 18 to 28 inches and one 28 inches or longer. No area restrictions would apply.
June 14-Nov. 30: Two fish per day with an 18-inch minimum and no area restrictions.
The Atlantic Coast regulations for Maryland waters would still allow two fish per day with a 28-inch minimum and a year-round season. Maryland's commercial regulations also would remain unchanged.
The ASMFC, which oversees interstate recreational and commercial fisheries, is expected to consider the proposal the week of Jan. 11.
Sources at DNR said the technical committee's approval of the changes is considered a major step toward approval of the proposal.
The rockfish population in Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic Coast has been bolstered by several large year classes this decade, and the enormous 1996 year class will enter the fisheries in 1999.
Firearms season update
According to preliminary counts by DNR, Maryland hunters killed 39,466 deer during the recent two-week firearms season, a 10 percent increase over last year.
The preliminary counts show increased deer kills in most areas of the state that have high or rapidly growing deer populations.
Regulations for deer seasons this year were changed to emphasize antlerless deer in most counties.
The top 10 counties were: Frederick, 3,445; Washington, 3,058; Allegany, 3,046; Dorchester, 2,649; Carroll, 2,557; Garrett, 2,468; Kent, 2,080; Worcester, 1,750; Queen Anne's, 1,744; and Charles, 1,711.
Anne Arundel County was up 13 percent at 871, Baltimore County was off 15 percent at 1,583, Carroll County was up 61 percent with 2,557, Harford County was up 11 percent with 1,087 and Howard County was up 24 percent with 626.