This rockfish season includes a one-fish limit and a mid-July closure. Photo: Eric Packard/DNR

Md. Rockfish Limits Set, Including July Closure

After proposals and public comment, we now know what rockfish limits will look like in Maryland this season.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued striped bass harvest regulations for recreational anglers and charter boat clients for the summer and fall fishery, May 16–Dec. 10, 2021. This year will be a split season, closing Maryland waters to all striper fishing July 16–31. No private anglers or charter boat guests and crews may target striped bass, even catch-and-release, during those two weeks.

DNR designed this seasonal closure to avoid the period when water quality and high temperatures are most stressful and harmful to striped bass in the upper Bay, according to DNR’s own data. Virginia and D.C. also have seasonal closures: Virginia closes its striped bass season for the lower Chesapeake from June 15 to October 4, while the Potomac River is closed to all targeting of striped bass fishing from July 7 through August 20.

Outside of the Maryland summer closure period, private recreational anglers may keep one striped bass per day, with a minimum size of 19 inches. Charter boat clients may keep two stripers per day, with a minimum size of 19 inches, provided the boat’s captain participates in DNR’s daily electronic reporting system. During any chartered fishing trip, neither the captain nor mate may land or possess rockfish for personal consumption.

Recreational fishing for other species is still allowed during the closure period. Anglers can target other species, like white perch, blue catfish, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, red drum, and cobia.

These regulations comply with Maryland’s striped bass fishery management plan under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). They are designed to reduce the harvest after fishery managers found in 2018 that Atlantic striped bass throughout their range are overfished (i.e., the stock has declined to a point that requires action) and that overfishing is occurring (i.e., we are killing too many of them, including some that die after being released). 70 percent of all Atlantic striped bass are born here in the Chesapeake, making the Bay crucial to restoring their numbers.

The summer closure period may be a hardship for those who take fishing vacations during those two weeks, as it will be also for charter boat captains, their crews, and local tackle shops. However, reducing pressure on the fish will help Maryland contribute to the conservation efforts being made by the other Atlantic states to allow the coastal striped bass stock to rebound. For more information on ASMFC’s management of striped bass throughout its range from North Carolina to Maine, visit https://www.asmfc.org/species/atlantic-striped-bass.

-John Page Williams