Decision due on `Flats' season

May 15, 2007|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,Sun reporter

State fisheries officials are hoping a regional regulatory board will approve a striped bass season for a portion of the upper Chesapeake Bay previously off limits to anglers.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission last week set into motion a May 21-31 season in an area known as Susquehanna Flats, a shallow, bowl-shaped area between Harford and Cecil counties, where the river meets the bay.

Approval, however, is contingent upon review this week by a commission sub-panel and a vote by fax of the Striped Bass Management Board.

Howard King, Fisheries Service director at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, has proposed that anglers be allowed to keep one fish per day, 18-26 inches long.

"We could know as early as Wednesday," King said of the new season. "The time is growing shorter and shorter, but we want to get our feet wet, so to speak, this year."

The advisory subcommittee is chaired by James Gilford, chairman of the Maryland Sport Fish Advisory Commission.

"Some people will be opposed to it not on the technical merits but the fact that Maryland is coming in at the last minute. ... People are leery of it," he said. "Maryland had better not do this again. They've gone to the well once too often."

The season would be a victory for upper bay recreational anglers, tackle shops and guides who were shut out of fishing for the state fish from early May until June 1 because of concerns about harming fish that use the upper bay's tributaries as spawning grounds as they migrate up the East Coast each year. The Chesapeake Bay is the nursery for more than 75 percent of the striped bass stock on the Eastern seaboard.

But Maryland fisheries managers say the regulation protects spawning fish, which are larger than 28 inches, and the new season comes late enough in the spawning cycle to prevent harm.

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