Recreational Fishery Opposes Proposed Rockfish Regs

OCEAN CITY — A coalition of local and regional recreational anglers and charter captains fired off a letter this month to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) crying foul over proposed regulation changes aimed at reducing the state’s striped bass, or rockfish, harvest.

After the 2018 benchmark stock assessment for striped bass populations along the east coast showed continued decline, federal and state fisheries management agencies began exploring regulation changes aimed at catch reductions and mortality rates among for the recreational striped bass fishery. The intent of the regulation changes is to reduce striped bass mortality rates and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and its partners have explored methods to reduce the overall take of striped bass by 18% and distribute the quota equally among the mid-Atlantic states.

As a result, the proposed regulations in the Chesapeake Bay call for a reduction in the minimum keeper size from 20 inches to 18 inches and a creel limit of one fish per angler per day. In the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal bays and their tributaries, the regulations for minimum keeper size effective April 1 would be somewhat more relaxed at 28 inches to less than 35 inches, but the same one fish per person creel limit would also be implemented.

This week, a coalition of local and regional recreational anglers, charter captains, bait and tackle industry representatives and other stakeholders fired off a letter to DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio acknowledging some regulation changes are needed with the most recent stock assessment declines, but also asserting the regulations as proposed but an unfair burden on Maryland’s striped bass recreational fishery.

“As leaders in conservation, we’re actively working to restore the iconic striped bass stock, even when that means reducing the number of fish recreational anglers are allowed to catch,” said American Sportfishing Association President Glenn Hughes. “Unfortunately, Maryland has decided to disproportionately restrict recreational anglers’ access to the striped bass fishery through unequal harvest reductions, closure of the April catch-and-release season and lack of input when decisions are made.”

The coalition’s letter to the DNR suggests the proposed regulation changes are short-sighted.

“We realize that in order to ensure the health and abundance of striped bass in the future, immediate and difficult management decisions must be made now,” the coalition’s letter reads. “However, Maryland’s current preferred conservation equivalency options unfairly place the vast majority of the burden on the private recreational fishery and may not contain measures necessary to bring on-the-water results to end overfishing and begin rebuilding the striped bass population.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

Alternative Text

Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.