Rockfish measures on Flats due review

April 29, 2007|By CANDUS THOMSON

Two pieces of good news could be coming together for striped bass anglers on the Upper Chesapeake Bay.

Fisheries managers will decide tomorrow whether to extend the catch-and-release season up on Susquehanna Flats.

Water temperatures have remained chilly, which keeps mortality low and goes a long way toward ensuring that a big fish lives to swim another day.

Last year, the Department of Natural Resources decided it would extend the season beyond May 3 if water temperatures stayed below 65 degrees. But weather forecasts predicted warmer days, so the experiment was called off. Of course, the weathermen were wrong - imagine that - but DNR was right to follow its better-safe-than-sorry policy.

Marty Gary, DNR fisheries biologist, said yesterday that fisheries managers will meet tomorrow to go through the same exercise, which includes polling some of the top guides in the upper bay.

"If we give the season a bump, the question is for how long. We don't want to extend it too long and nothing precludes us from bumping it again," he said. "What we don't want to do is close it and open it and close it again. We don't want a yo-yo effect."

The other piece of news is DNR's effort to get approval for a May 16-31 striped bass season for the Flats.

DNR met Thursday with a group of recreational anglers, guides and officers from Natural Resources Police to iron out the details of a two-week season that would allow the catching of fish 18 inches to 26 inches. Those fish are considered the resident population as opposed to the larger migratory fish that swim into the bay each spring to spawn on their way up the East Coast.

The technical committee of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has reviewed and approved DNR's formula. The next step is to get ASMFC's Striped Bass Management Committee to approve it during its week-long meeting in Alexandria, Va., beginning May 7.

The problem is, the proposal isn't on the agenda yet. Maryland Fisheries Service boss Howard King is hoping to get ASMFC to amend it. Failing that, he has several other avenues to pursue.

Although the timing is tight, DNR officials believe that if ASMFC gives its blessing, they can make the season happen this year.

If this regulatory dance is successful, anglers have an important role to play: Use non-offset circle hooks to reduce deep hooking and turn in poachers.

Mythbuster

In counseling us on impossible missions, country singer Roger Miller once warbled, "You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd," followed closely by, "You can't change film with a kid on your back."

In that same vein, as I learned a number of years back, there are those of you who think of sailboats as the worst use of warm air since Rosie O'Donnell took her first breath because they are useless when it comes to fishing.

Ha!

On Friday, with wind out of nowhere at zero knots, I joined Dave Reed of Sailing World magazine to cover the Sperry Top-Sider National Off-Shore One Design regatta.

We motored out to the mouth of the Severn River, just off Annapolis to watch one of the largest portions of the fleet bob like toys in a bathtub.

It's no fun covering boats that don't move.

Ugly times call for an Ugly Stick. So after a few minutes of staring at people staring back, I broke out a fishing rod.

Reed, a Rhode Island resident who fishes for stripers, nodded in approval.

First, I tried a Bass Assassin, with no luck. Then I tried a Deadly Dick.

Sitting in the middle of about 100 sailboats wasn't helping my chances.

"Want me to move out to the fringe," Reed said helpfully.

I shook my head and switched lures. Something bit a plastic lure in half, giving me great hope and making me forget I had nothing to cover.

All of a sudden, we noticed brightly colored spinnakers off toward the Eastern Shore.

Reed gunned the engine on the 21-foot center console boat, and off we went.

But as we arrived, the wind departed.

With big sailboats wallowing in the glassy water, I reached for a Sassy Shad.

"Are you saying fishing is more exciting than this?" hollered one of the sailors in jest.

The NOOD and I both were skunked, but I think I had more fun.

Soon both the press boat and the fleet were on their way into Annapolis. The press boat, with its 135 horsepower motor, was getting there a whole lot faster.

Being good sports, we accepted their tow lines and turned toward the Spa Creek docks.

Let the record show that Reed and I caught a J/22 and two Etchells. That's a stringer worth $100,000.

Next up: debunking the Miller notion that you can't go fishing in a watermelon patch.

New hand on deck

It's nice to see Coastal Conservation Association Maryland isn't resting on its legislative laurels.

The 30-year-old conservation group has hired its second employee and laid out an ambitious game plan that includes more chapters, more access and more bang for the buck.

The new hand is Brooke MacDonald, a Deale resident and angler, who combines conservation knowledge with a public relations background. The Maryland native will be out trying to get the grassroots to grow longer and deeper.

CCA just added chapters in Solomons and Chesapeake Beach and expects to add to that with chapters in Frederick, Ocean City and on Baltimore's east and west sides.

On May 9, CCA officials will get down to talking particulars with anglers at the Old Solomons Pier. On May 15, they'll go through the exercise again at the Chesapeake Beach Community Center. Both meetings are at 7 p.m. and open to all.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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