The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced today it will not impose a ban on striped bass fishing in spawning areas this spring.
The ban was imposed for the first time last year to protect dwindling stocks of stripers (rockfish) in the Chesapeake Bay. Stocks of the state fish remain "severely depressed," according to DNR, but the agency offered a dirrerent plan.
Deputy Secretary Louis Phipps outlined the new measures at a press conference attended by cahrter fishermen, commercial netters and sport fishermen. The measures follow recommendations of a citizens' advisory panel comprising all three of these fishing interests.
Phipps lauded the fishermen for working together "for the first time ever" on the committee. DNR has authority to issue fishing regulations only for areas where fish spawn. It issued one such regulation. All its other proposals are contingent upon action by the legislature.
The new regulation lowers the size of mesh commercial fishermen can use in spawning areas. The current maximum sixe is seven inches, large enough to trap and kill many oversize females loaded with roe. DNR will lower the acceptable maximum to 61/2 inches this year, six inches next, and 51/2 inches in 1981.
Smaller mesh catches smaller fish. Gill nets are stationary and large fish simply cannot enter the smaller mesh sizes.
The other DNR proposals will be forwarded to the legislature. They include:
A prohibition on use of any gill net in the Chesapeake Bay from June 5 to Nov. 20. That would shut down the small summertime netting industry and leave the bay free for sportfishing in those months.
Elimination of recreational gill netting altogether. almost 1,700 persons hold recreational gill net licenses, permitting them to fish small nets in protected rivers. Critics contend these nets are tended infrequently, which leads to drowning of captured fish, and say some fish caught in recreational nets are illegally sold.
The DNR also will seek legislation establishing a $10 license for charter fishermen and requiring them to report their catches; to ban sangging equipment around the Bay Bridge, and to increase the cost of a commercial hook and line fishing license to $50.
Wayne Brady, commercial fisherman and memner of the advisory committee, said the mesh size measures ar "stiff" for netters who have in the past caught high percentages of their rockfish in seven-inch nets.
He and Larry Simns, head of the Maryland watermen's association, said watermen are willing to sacrifice to assure rockfish stocks in the future.
"We even offered to agree to a moratorium on rockfish fishing for a year," Brady said, "if the DNR thought it would do any good."
Ben Florence, DNR striped bass specialist, said if all the measures are enacted and if rockfish reproduction is normal, as it was this year, "We should be able to rebuild our summer stocks of resident fish within five or six years."