Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has prepared a small business compliance guide in regard to the department’s changing regulations for striped bass.

Among the guidelines presented are changing the start of the recreational and charter-boat spring season (trophy season) to May 1 instead of the current start date of the third Saturday in April. The guidelines also prohibit the catch and release or targeting of striped bass from March 1 through April 30; this would be for all areas in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries; and, trolling would also be prohibited during that time period.

According to the guide, the “department, in cooperation with stakeholders, has determined additional action needs to be taken to reduce the mortality of striped bass and allow more migratory fish to make it to the spawning grounds successfully. Shortening the trophy season along with prohibiting the catch and release or targeting of striped bass during the period March 1 through May 1 will help increase the spawning stock biomass by reducing the overall harvest and dead discards associated with the pre-season catch and release fishery. In addition, preventing the interception of fish when they are normally heading to spawn will increase the chance that more striped bass have an opportunity to spawn. A successful spawn is the first step in increasing the numbers of striped bass.”

While delaying the trophy season has some merit, closing the catch-and-release season doesn’t.

As the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland has pointed out, in a letter by Executive Director David Sikorski: “Closing a season with nearly 98% survivability of fish released is not a likely way to reduce overall removals in the striped bass fishery.” Also: “The use of the year-long coast-wide 9% hook and release mortality to quantify the impacts of angling during the March-April timeline is inappropriate, and ignores studies done by Maryland DNR that shows that hook and release mortality is only an issue when bait is used, and gear which allows for deep hooking is permitted.”

Sikorski’s letter (available at ccamd.org) includes many more points that illuminate the DNR’s lack of consideration for recreational anglers and small businesses with its proposed closure.

DNR managers apparently don’t want to tire themselves too much in their efforts to regulate our striped bass. The guide states: “Although we have attempted to cover all parts of the rules that might be especially important to small businesses, the coverage may not be exhaustive.”

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Junior hunt days

This year’s Junior Deer Hunt Days in Maryland will be held Nov. 16 on private and designated public land in all counties, and Nov. 17 on private land in all counties except Baltimore, Howard, and Prince George’s. In Allegany, Cecil, Garrett, St. Mary’s, and Washington counties, the hunt is also open on designated public lands Nov. 17.

“The Junior Deer Hunt is very popular with our youth hunters and it’s an exciting time of year,” Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto said in a press release. “Deer tend to be very active during this weekend since it is the rut. It also provides adult mentors the opportunity to pass on the skills and traditions of hunting and shooting sports.”

Hunters 16 years of age or younger who possess a valid license may use air guns or firearms that meet department standards to hunt sika and white-tailed deer on these days. Youth must be accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old who holds a valid hunting license. Adults may not possess a hunting device while accompanying a junior hunter, but may participate in other open seasons if they are not acting as a mentor.

Deer taken by youth hunters during the two days do not count toward the regular archery, firearm, or muzzleloader bag limits. They are also exempt from the antler-point restriction.

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Fishing report

In the Chesapeake Bay, the steep channel edge from Sandy Point Light north to the mouth of the Magothy River is holding striped bass at about 30 feet on a fairly regular basis. Jigging over suspended fish when they can be spotted on a depth-finder is a popular way to fish. Breaking fish are part of the game and seagulls will guide you to large numbers of 2- to 3-year-old striped bass, which need another couple of years to be legal-sized, but often some larger fish can be found lurking close to the bottom. Slicks are another sign of activity that should not be overlooked.

Soft plastic 6- to 8-inch jigs in pearl, white, or chartreuse are popular, particularly those with sparkles and skirts. The mouth of the Chester River and Love Point have been good places to fish. Striped bass are also being found suspended over various shoals and knolls in the bay.

Trolling the above areas is also a productive way to fish. Anglers are having success by placing inline weights in front of their umbrella rigs or single-rigged lures to get down to where the fish are holding. Bucktails dressed with sassy shads, spoons, swimshads, and hoses have all been popular lures.

Eastern Bay and the shipping channel edge from Bloody Point south past Buoy 83 has been a great place to find stripers, as has the western side of the shipping channel and the mouth of the Choptank and Severn rivers. Water temperatures in the tidal rivers are now in the upper 50s, so bait in the form of bay anchovies, juvenile menhaden, and silversides are moving out of the rivers into the bay, and being swept south by strong current flows along the steeper channel edges.

White perch are steadily moving down the tidal rivers and into the bay or the mouths of the rivers. Bay Bridge pylons and rock piles are a great place to jig with dropper rigs to catch larger perch. Using bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm are also a good choice in tidal rivers. Anglers are starting to catch yellow perch in some tidal rivers on small minnows.

Northern snakeheads are quickly losing their cover in the form of thick grass and are compelled to move into more open waters. This is a great opportunity for anglers to cast chatterbaits over open water or to fish large minnows behind a bobber or popping cork. The tidal Nanticoke and rivers and creeks of lower Dorchester County are some of the best places to fish for them.

On the Atlantic Coast, the most action is coming for sea bass at the wreck and reef sites. Many captains are reporting boat limits of chunky sea bass every day.

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Duck blind know-it-all

The ocean sunfish, or common mola, can weigh over 2,000 pounds.

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

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