- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2006

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Maryland’s recreational fishermen for the second straight year have exceeded their early season quota for striped bass.

“Anglers are becoming more proficient,” said Howard J. King III, fisheries director at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “We have to control the effort. We have to fish responsibly.”

Anglers caught 67,000 striped bass in the four-week season that began April 15, or 60 percent above the quota set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Anglers exceeded their early season quota by about 60 percent last year as well.

Striped bass — known locally as rockfish — is Maryland’s state fish, and the Chesapeake Bay is the spawning ground and nursery for at least 70 percent of the Eastern Seaboard’s population.

Migratory rockfish enter the Bay in early spring to spawn, a visit that corresponds with the earliest days of the fishing season.

The opening day of rockfish season each spring is a Maryland tradition, attracting tens of thousands of anglers to the Bay.

Fisheries managers raised the minimum size from 28 to 33 inches for the first two weeks of this season.

They also banned tournaments from April 15 to May 1 to ensure that big female fish were not harmed during spawning.

The state is considering even more restrictions for the next season, including further increasing the minimum size, shortening the spring season or restricting the type of fishing equipment.

“We may have a very high minimum size, 38 inches or possibly more,” Mr. King said. “My goal is to get us out of this jam we face each year and by 2008 not be fishing under a quota.”

Mr. King plans to hold a series of meetings with anglers and charter captains to hear their ideas on how to control fishing before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission convenes in October.

Talk about further restrictions worries charter boat captains.

“We’re really in a corner,” said charter Capt. Ed O’Brien, vice president of the Maryland Charter Boat Association, who has been fishing on the Bay for more than 30 years. “That [spring] fishery means the world to us. For many of us, that’s 45 to 50 percent of our business. We’re really dead right now.”

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