Catch-and-release on flats, summer rock action proposed

DNR says healthy stocks make both moves viable

February 28, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The state has been asked to approve proposals for 1999 recreational and charter-boat rockfish seasons that include a new catch-and-release season in April and May on the Susquehanna Flats.

The Department of Natural Resources submitted the proposals to the General Assembly's Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee on Friday.

The proposals also allow anglers to fish for and keep rockfish 18 inches or longer from June 14 through Nov. 30. Previously, the rockfish season had been closed during portions of the summer when warm water resulted in high mortality among undersized fish that had been hooked and released.

After three banner-year classes this decade, DNR officials said, the rockfish population can easily support a summer fishery.

Under the flats proposals, the boundary of the upper Chesapeake Bay spawning reach would be revised to allow a catch-and-release fishery upstream of a line from Sandy Point to Turkey Point from April 10 to May 2. An earlier proposal had included the possibility of a mid-March opening.

Bay tributaries and their spawning reaches are closed to anglers each spring to protect rockfish that breed in Maryland waters.

"A 1998 study of the impact of a catch-and-release fishery in this area demonstrated that no adverse impacts on the spawning stock should be expected," DNR secretary John R. Griffin said. "The department will intensively monitor this area on a daily basis, and if any unexpected impacts are detected, I will take the appropriate steps to protect the striped bass population, including closures."

The study also found low mortality among hooked and released rockfish when water temperature is under 70 degrees.

Fisheries biologists have determined that deeper waters that are adjacent to but south of the flats boundary are the major spawning areas in the upper bay.

The proposals also include size and creel limits already approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The proposed seasons are:

April 23-May 31 -- One fish per day, 28-inch minimum. Open waters are main stem of the Chesapeake Bay from a line from the Patapsco River east to Swan Point to the Maryland-Virginia line and including Tangier and Pocomoke sounds.

June 1-13 -- One fish per day, 18 to 28 inches, and one per day 28 inches or longer, with no area restrictions.

June 14-Nov. 30 -- Two fish per day, 18 inches or longer, with no area restrictions.

Newport race in June

The biennial Annapolis-to-Newport sailing race will start on the Severn River in Annapolis on June 12.

Racing classes for the 473-mile sprint to the finish line at Castle Hill Lighthouse in Rhode Island will include IMS, PHRF, Americap and one-design classes with sufficient entries.

Eligibility requirements will include yacht stability screening and a minimum overall length of 33 feet.

For entry information and sailing instructions, contact the race committee by e-mail at Cgs88@webtv.net

Pub Date: 2/28/99

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