- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Although most of Maryland’s recreational anglers wanted tighter restrictions on the commercial take of their favorite late-winter fish, the yellow perch, the state Department of Natural Resources has decided to increase the daily recreational creel limit from five to 10 fish a day. The new regulation is now in effect.

Stating that its new list of yellow perch fishing rules is based on science and stakeholder cooperation that guided management decisions, the DNR also will allow the opening of previously closed watersheds to recreational yellow perch fishing. Watersheds for the Patapsco, Magothy, Severn, South and West rivers on the western shore and the Nanticoke River watershed on the Eastern Shore will be open to recreational yellow perch fishing.

The state’s commercial netters will have to obtain a yellow perch harvest permit and must tag and report their daily catch “in order to provide greater accountability and improved harvest data.” If the commercial netting target is achieved before the close of the season, the fishery will be shut down, according to the DNR. However, the agency did not explain how it will police the watermen. The state’s understaffed Natural Resources Police are in sore need of more officers, but no word has come down from Annapolis that help is on the way.

The new regulations will restrict commercial fishing to areas above the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Route 50 - excluding the Magothy River - and Patuxent River, and a target harvest for each open area will be established. The use of commercial fyke nets is prohibited in the upper reaches of 14 streams and rivers during the spawning season in order to minimize conflicts, and the commercial season is shortened.

The DNR said the increase in recreational perch limits was based on a yellow perch population assessment and data from a 2008 creel survey - along with angler-supplied data from an online survey. It showed that the daily recreational creel limit could be increased, although some recreational stakeholders will dispute such optimistic claims.

Said Tom O’Connell, the director of the DNR’s Fisheries Service: “The new management framework, along with continued monitoring and consultation with user groups, makes certain that the yellow perch resource is sustainable at levels that provide high quality recreational and commercial fishing opportunities for today and future generations.”

More help for the fish netters - DNR Secretary John R. Griffin has announced that a 400-pound-a-day rockfish allocation for commercial gill netters will close tomorrow, but the striper gill net season will reopen Monday. A netter again will be allowed to keep 400 pounds of rockfish a day. Yeah, right. As if the state was overrun with rockfish.

A friend last week talked to several commercial netters down at Aqualand Marina, by the edge of the Route 301 bridge in Charles County. All they found were nine keeper fish in their net. All this in a place that used to be home to thousands of wintertime rockfish that hung around the Potomac River bridge’s abutments and the outflow from the Morgantown Pepco Power Plant. Not so anymore.

Virginia sport anglers upset - The Virginia chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association is concerned about a state Senate bill that would add two commercial watermen seats to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. There now is one seat for a working waterman and one for a recreational fisherman. If two additional commercials were to serve on the VMRC, the netters could upset the balance on any decision made by the VMRC.

“Recreational fishermen deserve [a fair] marine commission,” the CCA chapter said. “The balance between recreational and commercial representation will be destroyed if this bill is passed.”

The bill’s sponsor is state Sen. John Miller, a Newport News Democrat.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com.

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