The eagerly-anticipated spring season for striped bass, locally known as rockfish, opens at 5:00 a.m. this Saturday, April 17 in the main stem of Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay south of the mouth of the Patapsco River.
“The epic return of our state fish and the opening of the fishing season mark the true arrival of spring to Maryland waters. This is the time for Maryland families to enjoy the bountiful nature resources that our State has to offer,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary John R. Griffin.
The legal fishing areas include the waters of the main stem of the Bay stretching from the Brewerton Channel at the mouth the Patapsco River south to the Virginia line including Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. To protect the late-spawning fish, some tributaries to the Bay are closed to striped bass fishing until June 1.
The use of eels as bait is prohibited until May 16. Additionally, DNR fisheries biologists recommend using barbless hooks for the careful release of undersized fish. DNR studies have shown that non-offset circle hooks are less prone to deep hooking fish, particularly when natural bait is used. These same mortality studies show that the use of a de-hooking tool to release the fish at the side of the boat without lifting the fish from the water significantly improves the survival chances of the fish.
“Historically, as much as 90 percent of the entire Atlantic Coast striped bass population returns to Maryland waters to produce the next generation of fish,” says DNR Fisheries Director Tom O’Connell. “This phenomenon provides anglers an excellent opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime measuring 40 to 50 inches or more. Along with this wonderful opportunity is a responsibility we all share to be careful and thoughtful in handling the fish we intend to release and in doing all we can to ensure a sustainable and robust fishery for the future.”
Beginning Saturday, anglers are allowed one rockfish per day of 28 inches or longer measured from the tip of the tail to the snout through May 16. From May 17 through December 15, the limits change to two fish per angler per day measuring 18 inches or more with only one of those fish measuring more than 28 inches. Possession of striped bass onboard between midnight and 5:00 a.m. is illegal all year.
Anglers who want to continue fishing after catching their striper limits and for those who prefer bottom fishing, the summer flounder season also opens on Saturday and runs through November 22. The creel limit is three fish measuring 19 inches or longer in both Bay and coastal waters.
DNR is encouraging anglers to participate in the online angler surveys for flounder, striped bass, crabs, bluefish, and other species. Those who join the survey will earn a chance at winning a prize from AllTackle.com, Anglers Sport Center, Bass Pro Shops, or other generous outfitters.
Go to www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/survey/vasurvey and participate to win.
To view detailed charts designating open, closed, and catch and release areas go to www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/regulations/sbrecseasons/sbregmap02.html
For more information on catch and release techniques go to www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/articles/catch_release.html.