Rockfish season expanded

Catch-and-release set for Susquehanna Flats

April 02, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The state has created a new catch-and-release season for rockfish on the Susquehanna Flats, a popular area at the head of the Chesapeake Bay that has been off-limits for nearly a decade.

The season on the flats, April 10 to May 2, will be allowed north of a line from Sandy Point to Turkey Point.

The change was made yesterday as part of the 1999 recreational and charterboat rockfish regulations, which were approved by the General Assembly's Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee.

The move is the latest sign of the rejuvenation of rockfish (striped bass), since the species made a sufficient comeback to allow reopening of seasons at the start of this decade. Rockfish had been protected after being severely threatened by overfishing in the 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s.

The proposal to open the flats for fishing in the spring worried some fishermen and sportsmen's groups because the area traditionally has been considered a spawning area for rockfish.

"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," said John R. Griffin, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.

That study also confirmed that the flats are adjacent to major spawning areas in the upper bay rather than a part of them.

"The department will intensely monitor this area on a daily basis," Griffin said, "and if any unexpected adverse impacts on the spawning stocks are detected, I will take the appropriate steps to protect the striped bass population, including closures."

The seasons already had been approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which oversees interstate fisheries. The seasons are:

April 23-May 31 -- one fish per day, 28-inch minimum. Open waters are mainstem of 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 larger with no area restrictions.

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

Pub Date: 4/02/99

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