Stock assessment at high level of abundance; Rockfish hotline activated
ANNAPOLIS On Saturday, Maryland anglers will take to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in hot pursuit of the official state fish during the striped bass Spring Trophy Season, which runs from April 15 through May 15. Pursuing trophy-sized striped bass, also known as rockfish or stripers, is one of the greatest fishing opportunities for Maryland anglers.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Service biologists have been out on the Bays spawning grounds daily since the beginning of April. Rockfish are staged in those areas in large numbers while they wait for temperatures to warm sufficiently for spawning. Once that warming begins and spawning commences, anglers will catch rockfish more frequently as the fish down run from their spawning grounds in the rivers and upper bay.
The duration and intensity of catches will be dependent upon how rapidly Bay water temperatures warm, said DNR Secretary C. Ronald Franks. If Bay waters warm slowly, as they did last year, the action will last longer. If waters warm quickly, the action will be fast and furious and somewhat shorter in duration.
The striped bass stock is healthy and at a high level of abundance, said Martin L. Gary, an ecologist with the Fisheries Service. We are seeing larger fish driven by the 1993 and 1996 year classes and there is a potential for anglers to catch fish in excess of 50, 60 and possibly even 70 pounds.
During the Spring Trophy Season, fishermen are allowed one rockfish per person, per day, 33 inches or larger. Neither the captain nor the mate of a charter boat is eligible. No eels may be used during this season.
Fishing during the Spring Trophy Season is restricted to the mainstem Chesapeake Bay from Brewerton Channel south to the Maryland/Virginia Line, and including Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. Fishing is not allowed in tributaries of the Bay. Charter boats may make a maximum of two trips per day.
Anglers looking for the most up-to-date information on where the rockfish are biting should call the Rockfish Hotline, 1-800-ROCKFISH (1-800-762-5347) before venturing out. The hotline is updated each week throughout the season with firsthand information from fisheries biologists, charter boat captains and anglers from the Susquehanna River to Pocomoke Sound and everywhere in between. Dorie Coleman, the voice of the Rockfish Hotline, is available to appear weekly on air with interested broadcast media outlets to update anglers.
In a continued effort to monitor the Bays striped bass population, DNR biologists have released rockfish into the Chesapeake with special tags worth $125. The dark green tags with white writing instruct anglers to remove the tag and to call Fisheries Service at 1-800-688-3467; the tag must be turned in to claim the reward. Those who catch an undersize fish or are practicing catch-and-release should cut the tag off and release the fish. Anglers are encouraged to record the capture date, location and disposition of the fish, as data obtained from the tags help fisheries biologists learn about striped bass movements and survival in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic Coast. Anglers assistance in submitting the tags will help ensure the continued successful management of striped bass.
Anglers should take common sense sanitary precautions when handling rockfish and other Bay wildlife. Individuals in frequent contact with the fish should wear gloves to avoid puncture wounds from fish spines, and wash hands thoroughly after handling or processing striped bass. Open cuts or scrapes on hands and arms should be thoroughly cleansed and bandaged. All rockfish should be properly cooked before consumption.
In November, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission released the latest stock assessment of the Atlantic striped bass population showing that the striped bass biomass continues at an extremely high level. (See press release of November 10, 2005 at http://www.asmfc.org/.)
For more information about fishing in Maryland including fish reports, license information and the 2006-2007 Maryland Fishing Guide, please visit the Fisheries Service web page, http://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/.