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A herring runs through the Gunpowder

March 05, 2011

Patrick Sapack of Baltimore County writes: About 15 years ago, I was taking a walk on the Gunpowder River off Route 7 (Philadelphia Road) about a mile towards the east. I saw a family catching herring. Can you please inform me as to when these fish run and what type of bait to use. Also, what type of regulations are herring bound by in Maryland? There is very little information in the Maryland fishing guides and the regulations involving dip nets is very confusing.

Marty Gary, a Department of Natural Resources biologist, replies: There are two species of herring that spawn in Maryland's tidal tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. They are alewife herring and blue back herring. They look very similar and are collectively referred to as river herring. They are also managed through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission as river herring. They are known to run up the Gunpowder to spawn. Alewife herring are the first to run, from late March into April, followed by blue backs from mid April to mid May. They are sometimes caught on small shad darts by fishermen targeting hickory shad (which also run into the Gunpowder). But historically, they have been taken recreationally by umbrella dip nets. In recent years, populations of river herring have fallen dramatically along the coast, including Chesapeake Bay. As a result, Maryland, along with most other states, will be placing a moratorium on both the commercial and recreational harvest of both species effective Jan. 1, 2012. So, you may "dip" herring during this spring's run, but not next year.

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