Maryland’s legacy of mismanagement of our state fish — the striped bass — reached new levels of political infestation this week when Gov. Larry Hogan’s Department of Natural Resources ignored public opinion, federal recommendations, and proven conservation measures in favor of short-term commercial special interests.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission had directed Maryland to reduce harvests of striped bass, aka rockfish, by 18 percent this year in an effort to address a declining population of fish. The commission’s recommendations included an 18% cut in the commercial quota and a catch limit of one fish per day of at least 18 inches in the Chesapeake Bay for regular anglers.

In response to those recommendations, Maryland is regulating a cut in the commercial harvest of just 1.8 percent and a cut in the harvest by everyone else of 20.3 percent.

This year’s commercial quota will be 4.73 million pounds.

That huge commercial kill of our state fish population occurs despite the fact the Maryland Department of the Environment recommends the general population limit their consumption of striped bass to 7 ounces per month from a fish over 28 inches and 3 ounces every other month for children due to PCBs and mercury contamination. Do you know if the rockfish filet you purchase from a seafood market or are eating at a restaurant came from a fish over 28 inches?

WHEN we’re allowed to go fishing this year for striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay, and WHEN we can go fishing, we’ll be allowed to catch and keep one fish per day, two possibly later on if you’re on a charter boat.

The spring catch-and-release Susquehanna Flats season, proven by the DNR’s own studies to have virtually no fish mortality, has been eliminated (if anglers follow new non-targeting rules). The spring trophy season won’t begin until May 1 and runs through May 16 with a one-fish catch limit with a minimum size of 35 inches.

More restrictions for regular anglers will likely follow for the summer and fall seasons. The DNR will announce a public comment period for those regulations in the coming weeks. I’d say, taking into consideration the department’s disregard of public comment concerning the spring proposals, don’t waste your time commenting. They don’t act on anything you say unless you’re from a special group. That leaves us with lawsuits and legislation or civil disobedience as the only viable solutions to counteract unethical and ineffective management.

Plenty of other fish taste as good as striped bass. Here are some healthy alternatives: Atlantic mackerel, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, Pacific wild-caught sardines, rainbow and some lake trout, perch, pollock, cod, and herring.

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Deer take up

The DNR reports deer hunters harvested 79,457 deer during the combined archery, firearms, and muzzleloader seasons, from Sept. 6, 2019 through Jan. 31, 2020.

The statewide harvest included 29,233 antlered and 46,777 antlerless white-tailed deer, plus 1,552 antlered and 1,895 antlerless sika deer. The harvest was 3% higher than the 2018-2019 total of 77,382 deer.

Hunters harvested more than 5,000 deer on Sundays. Hunting deer on Sunday is only permitted during certain weeks in 20 of Maryland’s 23 counties.

Many factors affect the annual deer harvest, including weather, the amount of natural food available to deer, and the economy as it relates to recreational time available.

The harvest in deer management Region A (western Maryland) decreased 12%, from 9,705 deer last year to 8,534 this year. Poor weather conditions on key hunting days contributed to the region’s harvest decline. Hunters in the western counties reported 5,056 antlered and 3,478 antlerless deer.

Hunters in Region B — the remainder of the state — harvested 70,923 deer, up 5% from 67,677 deer harvested last year. A total of 25,729 antlered and 45,194 antlerless deer were reported in this region.

Frederick County led the harvest totals again this year with 6,358 deer, followed by Carroll County with 5,553 and Baltimore County at 4,969. Garrett and Washington counties rounded out the top five with 4,607 and 4,041 deer, respectively.

Mid-Shore totals were:

Caroline — whitetail: antlered 785 (down from 829 in 2018-19), antlerless 1,797 (up from 1,727); sika: antlerless 1 (same as last year).

Dorchester — whitetail: antlered 748 (up from 734), antlerless 1,203 (up from 1,161); sika: antlered 1,405 (down from 1,466), antlerless 1,711 (down from 1,712).

Kent — whitetail: antlered 1,162 (up from 1,144), antlerless 2,020 (up from 1,949).

Queen Anne’s — whitetail: antlered 1,127 (down from 1,133), antlerless 2,248 (up from 2,060).

Talbot — whitetail: antlered 717 (down from 784), antlerless 1,637 (up from 1,535).

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Tie Fest 2020

This year’s 20th annual Lefty Kreh Tie Fest is Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23, at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum.

The show will host over 5,000 square feet of fly fishing products, services, fly-tying exhibitors, and seminars for saltwater and freshwater.

The show runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. It’s $10 at the door (free for kids under 16 and for active military).

Twelve seminars are scheduled on Saturday starting with “Tying Gamechangers” by Blane Chocklett at 10:30 and ending with “Intro to Fly Fishing for Women” by Kelly Buchta at 3:30.

Five seminars are slated for Sunday starting with “Fly Fishing Tangier Sound” by Capt. Chris Karwacki at 11:30 and ending with “Tarpon in Virginia Barrier Islands” at 12. The complete schedule is available at tiefest.com.

Yes, there are tarpon now in Virginia.

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Duck blind know-it-all

The first anglers used a gorge instead of a hook.

Follow me on Twitter @csknauss / email me at cknauss@stardem.com

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