|Outdoors: Numbers game puzzles bay
BILL BURTON, For The Capital
There's some good news on the flounder front, which we'll get
into in a moment, but first a look at the flip side, which is more
ominous than just a mere flip.
Though much of the winter fishing talk lately has been focused on
menhaden woes, there's a popular sports fish that at present appears
to be in as much trouble if not more as menhaden. And with both
species, it's virtually impossible at present to get a handle on the
As Atlantic States Marine
Fisheries Commission met much of last week to review the coastal
fisheries picture, there came no meaningful suggestions that will
put at ease the concerns of sportsfishermen in regards to sea trout
and menhaden. The scientific community moves slowly, as well it
should - it can act effectively only when it has solid findings and
With both species, missing are
many pieces of the puzzle, and though we fishermen are impatient for
action and solutions, we must accept that presently it's not in the
cards - though it appears ASMFC is moving ahead to initiate a cap of
110,400 metric tons for bay menhaden in '06 and '07.
Menhaden are considered the primary forage
fish for our most popular sports fish. And the Maryland Saltwater
Sportfishermen's Assocation and many sportsfishermen complain they
are being overfished, endangering the bay fishery for rockfish,
blues, sea trout and other fishes higher up the food chain.
As for sea trout, we have a situation that
baffles fisheries scientists along the coast as well as fishermen.
Stock assessments of these popular fish indicated until recently
that everything was on track for good populations and good catching,
but suddenly the bottom fell out. It has been several years since
there have been good numbers of trout evident - and good catches of
This means that either the
assessments made primarily by individual states were well off the
mark, or something has happened either climatically or elsewhere in
their environment to adversely impact their numbers. It's obvious to
all something has gone terribly wrong.
Back in the '90s when the sea trout fishery
was in the doldrums fisheries managers implemented measures to
appreciably curtail the bycatch of immature trout primarily by
shrimpers in the Carolinas. Almost immediately, the species
responded, and things looked bright. And, there followed several
years of very good sea trout'n in the Chesapeake.
Then the bottom fell out; we need not be
reminded the catches last year were horrendous. Many fishermen did
not even catch a single keeper. Was it the assessments were way off
target? Or is something else not known at this time is to blame -
and not just here but along much of the coast?
The only flickering bright spot is that in
North Carolina there appears to be a population of older and larger
fish. Meanwhile, ASMFC has decided to basically reassess past
population assessments, and that will take time - which of course
means we can't look for an improvement in our catches for more than
a few seasons in the future.
There are so
many possibles; if the problem can't be attributed to flaws in
assessments then something else is responsible - and what can it be?
Are there unknown factors involving recruitment of new fish in the
fishery? Or other problems not evident? ASMFC is calling for an
outside review of the situation, and we might know more when it
meets again in May.
All we really know is
that it pretty much agreed the basic problem is not an overcatch by
fishermen, and that the commission is taking an aggressive stance on
sea trout and it, appreciates a big problem exists. In the meantime
we must appreciate that science moves slowly, which is little
consolation, but that's the way it must be. Have patience.
As for flounder, it appears we have a
breakthrough. After recent public meetings things boil own to
several options for Maryland fishermen, among them reducing the
minimum size limit below the controversial barrier of 16 or 17
inches of the past, which most sportsfishermen griped was
unreasoanble because it was difficult to catch fish of that size,
particularly in the Chesapeake.
position is that both bay and oceanfront flounder regulations must
be the same though our DNR has unsuccessfully argued there is a
difference - bay flounder generally aren't as big. Now, there's the
chance that the catching of flounder as short as 15 inches is
possible. And fishermen can make the decision.
Three proposals stand out: A 15-inch minimum,
two fish a day; 15-inch minimum, four fish a day, or 16-inch
minimum, eight fish a day. Currently, it appears the 15-inch option
is favored hereabouts.
length limit is made possible because in Maryland last year we took
only 43 percent of the recreational quote of 131,000 fish allotted
by ASMFC (some states to the north exceeded their quotas
appreciable). Because we fell so far short - 64,000 fish short, we
get a well deserved break.
We also get a
break with sea bass fishing. This year there will be no closures in
the season for these fish so popular with the headboat fleet out of
Ocean City. And, on the horizon is an improvement in our waters of
the porgy situation. They appear to be making a dramatic comeback
after many dismal years hereabouts. Once they were common and
popular among headboaters, but by the '60s they virtually
Marty Gary will talk about monitoring reef ball sites, and recruit
volunteer anglers to assess the effectiveness of reef balls to
attract fish at a 7:30 p.m. meeting of Pasadena Sportfishing Group,
Earleigh Heights Fire Hall, Richie Highway north of Severna Park.
Public invited. Call 410-439-3474.
Saturday/Sunday: Pasadena Sportfishing Group's
13th annual Flea Market, Earleigh heights Fire Hall, Severna Park.
Feb. 21: Fishermen's
Night at 7:30 p.m. meeting of Broadneck/Magothy Chapter of MSSA,
American Legion Post 175, Manhattan Beach Road, south of Severna
Park. Speakers will be Jim Gracie and Bill Burton. Crippled Alewive
lures and Bernie Michael's baits will be displayed. Public invited.
Feb. 24: Annual dinner
and fund raiser of Annapolis Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, 6 p.m.,
banquet room of Navy Football Stadium, Annapolis. Call Bunny Chew,
March 3: Annapolis Chapter
of CCA annual barbecue and fund-raiser, silent and live auctions, 6
p.m., Annapolis Elks Lodge, Route 2 and Aris T. Allen Boulevard,
Annapolis. Call Robert Glenn, 410-280-8770, or Andy Hughes,
410-570-1274. On the web it's email@example.com.
March 5: Annual Swap Meet of Free State
Flytyers, noon to 4 p.m., Ford Hall, Davidsonville Family Recreation
Center, Queen Annes Bridge Road, Davidsonville. All kinds of fly
tackle available. Call John Scarborough, 410-757-6411. E-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check the club's website:
March 5: Fishing seminars; Bill Burton and
Richie Gaines, Fishing the Chesapeake, 9 to noon, and from 1 to 4
p.m., Richie Gaines and Gary Neitzey, Light Tackle Fishing,
Tri-State Marine, Deale. Call 301-261-5220, or 410-867-1447.
March 6: Fishing seminars; Light Tackle and
Jigging, 9 a.m. to noon, Capt. Pete Dahlberg; 1 to 4 p.m., Trolling
the Chesapeake, Capt. Wayne Morgan. Call 301-261-5220, or
March 12: MSSA offshore
Fishing Swap Meet & Rigging Seminar, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., American
Legion Post No. 7, Crownsville Road, Crownsville. Call Rick Nadoiny,
410-757-0798 or 301-518-5019.
Opener of the spring trophy rockfish season, and you can sign up now
for the increasingly popular fourth annual Boatyard Bar & Grill
Opening Day Fishing Tournament based at Eastport to benefit
Chesapeake Bay Foundation, CCA, Md., and the Annapolis Police
Department's Youth Fishing Camp. Call 410-336-8880. On the web it's
www.boatyardbarandgrill.com. Click on "fishing."
Calendar items, comments or news notes should
be mailed to Bill Burton, P.O. Box 430, Pasadena, MD, 21122-0430, or
faxed to 410-360-2427. Please include your phone number.
- No Jumps-
Published February 13, 2005, The Capital, Annapolis,
Copyright © 2005 The Capital, Annapolis,