Chesapeake Outdoors
Rockfish Aren't the Only Fish in Chesapeake Bay
By C.D. Dollar

A stiff north wind must have kept most of the boats at dock, because we were only one of two boats fishing the Eastern Stone pile as Karl Roscher, Chris Colbeck and I headed out of Sandy Point Marina. We jigged chartreuse feather jigs with good success, pulling up several fat sea trout, or weakfish. Blitzing bluefish, gorging themselves on anchovies in preparation for their push out of the Chesapeake, and rockfish (14 to 17 inches) also provided some excitement.

In the midst of this action, I thought of the anglers that get tunnel-vision for rockfish, those fisherman who feel if they don't score rock the trip has been a bust. I really don't get that mentality. Arguably, rockfish are the glamour gamefish, but by no means are they the only game around. Two state-records for Spanish mackerel have been set less than two months apart. Sea trout and croaker posted impressive numbers in recent seasons, and the flounder increases are encouraging. Yet most everyone seems keyed on rockfish. And with the abundant numbers of rockfish throughout the Bay, it is easy to see why.

Still, the collapse of the Atlantic stocks of striped bass in the 1980s is fresh in the minds of many fishermen. Hopefully, we have learned that management of fisheries in crisis doesn't work. Shad, oysters, and rockfish have proven that. Today, with larger rockfish under intense pressure, many in the fishing community are looking to protect future stocks. The boon of the 1993 and 1996 year-class rockfish has benefited all anglers, but action is needed to protect the larger class of rockfish (eight years and older, usually better than 28 inches long).

In October, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Striped Bass Management Board met in Providence, R.I., to craft a management plan to reduce the number of age eight and older fish by 28 percent. The board decided to reduce the number of large fish taken in 2000 by 14 percent and achieve the balance of the reduction in the year 2001.

Through work groups and public input, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources will create its management strategy to comply with the board's decision. One option would be to create an 18- to 35-inch slot on commercial fisheries and for recreational/charter fisheries to set a two-fish per-person per-day creel limit with only one over 28 inches in length. These regulations would run from June 1 through November 30, 2000.

Under this setup, DNR believes that Maryland could easily attain the required 14 percent reduction. Often, it takes guts to make hard, somewhat controversial and unpopular decisions to protect natural resources. But to ensure the future health of rockfish, I'll gladly give up a few extra fish.


Fish are Biting

Water temperatures are dropping almost daily, and blues and rockfish are fattening up for the migration out the Bay and the long winter. In the upper Bay, snapper blues can be found in good numbers at the Bay Bridge, the mouth of the Chester River and many points and bars south. DNR reported last week that Love Point and the lumps south of Belvedere Shoals have produced for chummers.

Light tackle and fly fishermen are having a blast in the skinny water of the tributaries, which are holding nice-sized rockfish (up to 30 inches) that feed in the shallows at dawn and dusk. Various surface plugs, soft plastics and flies have hooked legal rockfish.

Sea trout still are around the stone piles at the Bay Bridges (action is best when boat traffic is light) and Eastern Bay, and the occasional flounder is taken on minnows on the channel edges off Poplar Island and Eastern Bay.

In the middle and lower Bay, charter captains and recreational fishermen report blues are still abundant. Some locations reported to produce fish for chummers and trollers are the Diamonds, Point No Point Light and the eastern edge of the main shipping channel south of Buoy #72A. Also, from Deale south to Cove Point rockfish better than 30 inches have been taken trolling.

| Issue 42 |

Volume VII Number 42
October 21-27 1999
New Bay Times

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