- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2005

Although there’s no telling how many rockfish fanatics will brave the wind and waves sure to be present on the Susquehanna Flats today, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has decided to open the catch-and-release striped bass season in this northern Chesapeake Bay sector. Wind or no wind, technically speaking, you will be permitted to give it a shot right now.

Normally, the season wouldn’t get started until mid-March. The earlier start date was the result of the colder water temperatures outside the mouth of the Susquehanna River, which allowed nearly 100 percent survival of the released stripers. Remember that circle hooks will be required for using bait for striped bass fishing on the Flats.

Anglers who use bait on larger hooks will be required to use non-offset circle hooks. Bait hooks with a gap greater than a half-inch (measured from the tip of the hook to the shank) are required by regulation to be non-offset circle hooks. Bait hooks with a gap of less than a half-inch may be a standard J-style hook. Deep hooking injuries to vital organs are the leading cause of death in catch-and-release striped bass.

Non-offset circle hooks allow a fish to be caught without causing it physical injury, making it easier to separate the fish from the hook and release it back into the water.

However, it should be noted the great majority of stripers in the Flats fishery are caught on artificial lures, many on streamer flies cast from heavy-duty flyrods.

The season runs through May 3.

Going after perch - Although the general news about local yellow perch spawning schools isn’t good, a group of us will go after them with artificial grubs or small shad darts tomorrow. Some of our pals will try the Patuxent River from Hills Bridge down to Jug Bay; others will be in several of the Potomac River’s tidal tributaries, including the Mattawoman, Occoquan, Aquia and Nanjemoy.

Fishing for yellow perch has been sporadic, to put it mildly. The shoreline anglers down around the Wicomico River’s Allen’s Fresh area haven’t done well, even though they should be. However, they already have started catching some white perch - a fish that normally doesn’t show up until the yellow perch have finished spawning.

Down the bay in Virginia - Ocean stripers have started to make their push toward the Chesapeake, says super angler Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fishermen’s Association headquartered in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area.

“They do not seem to care much what the water temperature is now. The days are getting longer, and they have things to do. The ocean season remains open through March 31. In the bay, it is catch and release only. Some have already entered the bay, but there are still plenty feeding along the oceanfront,” said Neill, who also pointed out flounder season is open.

You may keep six fish of at least 16 1/2 inches in length. But, Neill said, “don’t expect much action until the water warms up a bit. Depending on the weather, flounder action may be decent the last couple weeks of the month.”

Neill also passed along word that professional charter fishing captain Richard Bartlett took a charter after rockfish and found them about 14 miles south of Rudee Inlet a few days ago.

“They came in with a limit of fish up to 37 pounds,” Neill said. To charter Bartlett, call 757/876-5376.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

Jorj Head, a member of a Virginia saltwater fishermen’s association, caught this large rockfish in the Atlantic.

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