Spring Rockfish Season Opens April 18

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The spring season for striped bass, known regionally as rockfish or stripers, opens Saturday, April 18, at 5 a.m. in the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay, stretching from the mouth of the Patapsco River south to the Virginia line and including the waters of Tangier Sound. Because densities of striped bass can be very high, especially during the first two weeks of the spring season, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging anglers to place extra emphasis on practicing responsible angling ethics.

“Based on current water temperatures, the conditions this year are ideal and the expectation of anglers is high as they countdown to Saturday’s kickoff,” said DNR Fisheries Service Director Tom O’Connell. “We ask all Maryland anglers enjoying what is sure to be an exciting weekend to minimize the catch and release of stripers when possible, and to carefully follow protocols when releasing fish to provide the best chance for survival.”

Anglers on private vessels, charter boats and those fishing from shore in the mainstem of the Chesapeake (tributaries excluded), including Tangier Sound will be allowed to keep 1 fish per person per day, 28 inches or greater in length. There are also specific striped bass catch and release areas that will remain open in order to provide additional opportunities to anglers.

DNR recommends minimizing the catch and release of striped bass once anglers’ daily bag limits have been achieved to minimize stress on striped bass. If anglers must release a fish, efforts should be made to release the fish at the side of the boat with a dehooking device, and avoid removing the fish from the water. If a fish has to be removed from the water, handling should be minimized and out of water time should kept to 15 seconds or less. More information on ethical practices for catch and release fishing can be found at: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/articles/catch_release.html.

“Maryland fishermen look forward to the start of another exciting spring striped bass season on the Chesapeake,” said Ritchie Gaines, Chair of the DNR Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission. “At the same time, sports fishermen need to be mindful of their actions and continue to practice good angling ethics to provide adequate protection of the striped bass resource and ensure that our traditional spring fishery remains available to future generations of anglers.”

Striped bass begin spawning in April when spawning reaches the Bay’s tidal rivers. Spawning occurs when water temperatures are between 54 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit. The majority of stripers that are caught during the spring season are fish that are migrating down the Bay after spawning.

To view a map of regulations, please visit http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/regulations/sbrecseasons/sbregmap03.html. For further information, contact Martin Gary at 410-260-8289 or by e mail mlgary@dnr.state.md.us.

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