Maryland officials responding to pressure from watermen and state legislators have relaxed their scheduled 2 1/2 month springtime ban on fishing for striped bass in spawning waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Louis Phipps, deputy secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, said yesterday a compromise was reached at a meeting late Monday night. DNR had planned to shut all waters north of Worton Point, plus the mouths of most spawning rivers, to sport and commerial striper fishing from March 15 to June 1.
The compromise calls for closing the waters above Worton, which is north of Baltimore, from May 6 until June 1. Waters out to the mouths of rivers in the middle and lower Bay will be closed from April 26 until June 1.
Catches of striped bass (rockfish), the Maryland state fish, have been declining steadily the last five years. DNR officials want to maintain a brood stock and sought the 2 1/2-month ban in order to eliminate fishing pressure during the spawning periods.
But waterman maintained the ban would wipe out their livelihood and warned that hasty imposion of the regulation, which wasn't announced until 10 days ago, was unfair because they had already spent money on spring fishing gear.
Larry Simms, head of the Maryland Watermen's Association, said that under the revised ban the state's 1,300 netters "are giving up half of our prime season."
He said fishermen would now be required to haul their boats for painting and maintenance up to three weeks earlier than normal, and probably would compensate by starting their summer crabbing season earlier.
The ban applies to sport and commercial fishermen equally. No Rockfish are to be taken from waters above Worton Point or from the waters of the Choptank, Nanticoke, Patuxent, Wicomico, Black Water, Pocomoke, Transquaking, Chester, Manokin rivers or parts of the Potomac during the proscribed time.
The ban is in the form of an emergency DNR regulation. It is to be reviewed by a legislative review board at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at 90 State Circle, Annapolis.