Fishing on `Flats' extended to May 10

Cool water allows striped bass move

Outdoors

May 01, 2007|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,Sun reporter

Anglers will get an extra week of catch-and-release striped bass fishing on the Susquehanna Flats, the sportsmen's paradise where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay.

The season, which was supposed to end Thursday, has been extended until midnight May 10, said Marty Gary, a fisheries biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

A cool spring has kept the water well below 65 degrees, the temperature at which fish begin to die more quickly after being caught.

Gary said a look at the long-range forecast and consultations with fishing and conservation groups, guides and Natural Resources Police convinced DNR that the catch-and-release season could continue with little harm to the striped bass, also known as rockfish.

"It's not an exact science," Gary said. "We're using a common-sense approach."

DNR will revisit the situation May 7 to see whether water temperatures will allow the season to be extended again.

Topographically, "The Flats," as sportsmen call it, is an upside-down bowl at the top of the bay nestled between Harford and Cecil counties, with depths ranging from a few inches to a few feet. Around the rim is a channel of deeper water.

Ecologically, it sits in the middle of the East Coast's largest striped bass nursery, where the large migratory fish stop each spring to spawn on their way north.

Maryland's striped bass season begins each year on "The Flats." In late fall, waterfowl hunters set up shop.

Last year, the Department of Natural Resources decided it would extend the striped bass season beyond May 3 if water temperatures stayed below 65 degrees. But weather forecasts predicted warmer days, so the experiment was called off. The forecast was wrong, which led to some complaints.

"I think it's a good move," said Capt. Mike Benjamin, a North East guide, after yesterday's announcement. "Sixty-five degrees is fair. We played it safe last year, and that was a good thing."

Gary said Natural Resources Police have increased surveillance and enforcement to act as a deterrent to poaching.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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