- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stripers Forever, a nonprofit rockfish conservation group, says coastal anglers from Maine to North Carolina are reporting lower catch numbers of stripers and overall smaller specimens.

The organization is advocating gamefish status for wild striped bass on the Atlantic Coast, which would halt all commercial netting operations.

“When we conducted [a survey] in 2003, the majority of respondents felt that the recreational fishery for striped bass was improving,” said Brad Burns, the president of the group. “But in the intervening three years, that sentiment has gone steadily the other way. In 2006, by a margin of two to one, responding members reported catching fewer or ‘far fewer’ stripers and nearly 60 percent said the size of the fish they caught had again declined over the past year.”

The 2006 Stripers Forever survey showed that roughly 70 percent of the membership who responded to the survey fish primarily from boats. The other 30 percent fish mostly from shores. It also showed that a large majority of fishermen from every state with stripers favor slot limits that would protect large breeding-size specimens.

Burns discounted accusations that Stripers Forever wants the entire rockfish population for recreational anglers only.

“[Almost] 85 percent of those who responded to our surveys want to reserve at least half of the commercial catch for conservation — not simply assign those fish to recreational fishing limits,” he said. “And one third of the survey responders think that a full 100 percent of the commercial quota should be set aside for conservation.”

The group favors the idea of a striped bass stamp to buy out those commercial fishermen who can prove their primary income was derived through striper catches. Check out www.stripersforever.org for more information on the subject of rockfish protection.

Lake Gaston bass possible — Bass angler Marty Magone has been busy hunting largemouths in Lake Gaston on the Virginia-North Carolina border. Overall, the fishing has been slow, but he has the luxury of seeing more open lake water, and now and then a bass will bite. His fishing pal, Dez Rubesch, nailed a 61/4-pound bass on a crankbait a few days ago, and Magone said he had a good one on and lost it at the boat.

“That’s the way it goes some days,” he said.

Magone was out on the water yesterday and again found bass.

Whirling disease found — In case you missed the Feb. 14 story on Maryland hatchery trout being affected by whirling disease, trout production at state hatcheries will be reduced by approximately 20 percent because of the recent discovery of the parasite that causes the disease. Whirling disease enters the skeletal tissue of young trout. Infected fish exhibit erratic swimming — whirling — characteristics that can eventually be fatal, particularly to rainbow trout. The disease was found in approximately 80,000 trout in two Garrett County “grow-out” facilities managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Instead of the usual 418,000 stockable trout in Maryland, there now are only 340,000 available. Bob Lunsford, director of freshwater fisheries, said, “We are looking all over the East Coast to buy trout from [private] growers.”

The bulk of Maryland trout stocking is set to begin in early March.

Trout Unlimited meeting — The Northern Virginia chapter of Trout Unlimited invites the public to come to its monthly meeting on March 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department hall. Trout Unlimited members will meet jointly with the Potomac River Smallmouth Club for a “What’s in your water?” program by Vicki Blazer of the U.S. Geological Survey. Blazer is a fish pathologist at the National Fish Health Research Laboratory of the USGS’s Leetown Science Center in Kearneysville, W.Va. For more information, e-mail John Hadley at [email protected] or phone 703/933-6629.

Yellow perch protection looming? — As urged by the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland, State Sen. Roy Dyson (District 29 Democrat) has introduced Senate Bill 702, the Yellow Perch Conservation Act of 2007. The CCA MD says talks with Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources failed to produce any change in the DNR’s outlook concerning yellow perch management policies. If enacted, SB 702 would ban nets from the Chesapeake Bay’s tributaries from Jan. 1 through March 20, the height of the yellow perch spawning season. Check out www.ccamd.org if you would like to get in on some CCA grassroots action.

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

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