Bringing It Home

Charter boat fishing isn't big business only in Hawaii. It's also popular in the Chesapeake Bay region.

About 500 charter boats from Maryland and 100 from Virginia fish the waters of the bay. Perhaps the most popular catch is striped bass, the state fish of Maryland (Virginia's state fish is the brook trout). Silvery striped bass get the name from the seven or eight stripes along their sides, but in this region they are better known as rockfish because they like to hang out on rocky bottoms.

Rockfish can be caught "virtually every way that you can think of to go fishing, they're that cooperative," says Claude Bain, who directs Virginia's Saltwater Fishing Tournament.

They also are delicious to eat -- but you can release what you catch if you want.

Rockfish are so popular that for a while officials worried that too many were being caught. So for several years Maryland imposed a ban on catching them. (Virginia had a ban, too, but it was shorter.) Now, rockfish can be caught only during certain months, and only in certain amounts, because "they are so treasured," says Martin Gary, an ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Rockfish smaller than 18 inches have to be thrown back to allow them to grow. And they can get a lot bigger. The heaviest rockfish ever caught in Virginia was 63 pounds; the heaviest one landed in Maryland -- by a 12-year-old kid in 1995 -- was 671/2 pounds!

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