EARLY SEASON ROCKERS TEST MARYLAND WATERS

 

 By Steve and Chelley Scala
Outdoor Life Writers
THE CHESAPEAKE

It’s time to ROCK, or so says all who are testing the pre-season waters of Maryland’s Tidewater in search of recently arrived big striped bass.  Excitement and anticipation are high as those in the know are measuring the options for hooking up with some big post or pre-spawn stripers. This is the practice run so to speak for Maryland anglers as they get ready for opening day when striped bass can be kept on April 17, 2010.  After a long, cold and freezing blast of winter weather, all can believe that spring is finally here and with it, the start of some of Southern Maryland’s favorite fishing seasons.

In the Fresh

Our memories and nostalgia were given a nice boost last week when our family saw many anglers fishing the Allen’s Fresh area, at the headwaters of the Wicomico River. The group was spread out on both sides of the Route 234 Bridge, on the shore, in small boats and some even had waders on. The traditional yellow perch run was obviously well underway and this harbinger of early spring fishing again has lots of angling fans. While the yellow perch run can be hard to predict in terms of the exact beginning and end dates, the good news is this is only the first of many other fishing opportunities for the 2010 season. Some of the same waters angler’s fish for yellow perch can also provide white perch, catfish, bream (sunfish), crappie and even school-size stripers.

Catch & Release Stripers

On March 22, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Service implemented the 2010 catch and release regulations for striped bass (aka rockfish). These regulations/restrictions are in effect until the recreational fishing season for stripers opens on April 17. While the DNR recognizes the popularity of the pre-season catch and release fishery, they remain concerned about catch and release mortality and its impact on pre-spawn female striped bass. Thus, some of the restrictions in place between now and April 17, are to help protect these important brood fish prior to a successful spawn.    

Point of View

Maryland’s Fisheries Service Director, Tom O’Connell was recently quoted in a DNR press release emphasizing the importance of implementing rules and restrictions to protect these important spawning class stripers. “It is never easy to restrict the access and opportunity to a resource, but let’s not forget how far we have come from the striped bass moratorium of 20 years ago. We are fortunate that all sectors of our fishing community benefit today from the sacrifices of past management efforts. The latest stock assessment raises some concerns that require us to pause and evaluate how our actions may be impacting the long-term sustainability of this resource. If we remain vigilant and prudent in our management of this resource, we will ensure that our premier striped bass fishery will remain available for us and future generations to enjoy.” O’Connell’s concerns are shared by many fisheries biologists who are concerned about big stripers being caught, handled and then released.
                             Rules of the Pre-Season Fishery

Maryland has designated catch and release areas and those where they do not want spawning fish disturbed. Areas open to the catch and release striper fishing until April 17 include the Chesapeake Bay from the Brewerton Channel just southeast of the Patapsco River mouth to the Virginia line and include Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. The spawning rivers and the Upper Bay spawning area are off limits until June 1 to striped bass fishing.
 The Maryland DNR has posted the following regulations:

  • Stinger (trailing) hooks are prohibited.
  • Barbless hooks are required when trolling. Simply pinch the barb down to facilitate the careful release of your fish.
  • Non-offset circle hooks or J hooks with a gap of less than a half-inch are required when using natural bait.
  • No more than 6 lines may be employed while trolling regardless of the number of anglers on board.
  • A chart of open catch and release and spring trophy season areas is at www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/regulations/sbrecseasons/sbregmap022.

Recreational Striper Season

The 2010 spring trophy striped bass season begins on April 17 and continues through midnight, May 15. A possession creel limits of one fish per person at 28 inches or longer will be in effect during that time. Areas open to striper fishing during this season include the main stem Chesapeake Bay from the Brewerton Channel to the Virginia line and include Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. Creel and possession limit change on May 16 through December 15. The creel limit will be two striped bass with a minimum size of 18 inches. Only one of those two fish may be longer than 28 inches.

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