Maryland proposes new fishing restrictions to protect rockfish

A rockfish is caught on a fishing trip in Chesapeake Bay. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)(The Washington Post via Getty Im/The Washington Post)

Citing concerns about the population of striped bass, often referred to as rockfish, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has proposed restrictions that would limit fishing activity in the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the DNR, the proposed limits are aimed at bolstering the spawning population.

“Maryland waters serve as the spawning grounds for many of the striped bass that migrate up and down the East Coast, and we take our leadership role in managing the overall population seriously,” said Josh Kurtz, the DNR secretary. “That’s why we’re putting forth new regulations to protect spawning striped bass.”

Under the restrictions, the Maryland striped bass trophy season would be eliminated next year, and a catch-and-keep fishery on the Susquehanna Flats would be closed from May 16 through May 31.

The trophy season runs from May 1 through May 15.

In Maryland, April is already closed to targeting striped bass, so the proposed restrictions would effectively extend that period into May.

According to the DNR, the extension would cover a time when large female striped bass make their way up the Chesapeake Bay to spawn in the same rivers where they hatched.

The proposed restrictions are being presented to the Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review for consideration.

“We believe the proposed regulations will help protect the spawning stock of striped bass in Maryland,” said the DNR’s director of fishing services, Lynn Waller Fegley. “Increasing the spawning stock will enhance the odds of successful spawning when environmental conditions are right.”

The spawning success of striped bass has been below average for the past five years, according to the DNR, which cited environmental factors, such as warmer winters and low water flows.

Striped bass is Maryland’s state fish and is considered to be the state’s most important commercial and recreational fish species.

Fishermen are urged to pursue other fish, such as blue catfish and northern snakehead, instead of striped bass.

“Blue catfish and snakeheads are invasive species and harvesting them contributes to a healthier ecosystem in the Bay,” the DNR said in a statement.

Along with the actions being taken by Maryland, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering possible limits to the number and size of striped bass that can be caught in the Bay and along the Atlantic Coast.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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