Photo: Roy Julie

Md. Rockfish Season Closed Until September, Starting Sunday

If you’ve been meaning to get out and catch some rockfish, you may want to go now: the Maryland striped bass season will close for two weeks beginning Sunday, August 16.

Fishery managers for the East Coast determined that the entire stock of Atlantic stripers has been overfished. To reduce pressure on the highly-prized species, all 13 member states of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted last fall to reduce total removals in each jurisdiction by at least 20.6 percent.

It’s up to each state to decide how they’ll arrive at the required reduction. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lowered the catch limit to one striper per person per day, at a 19-inch minimum length. The agency added a closure from August 16 through 31 to reduce dead discards this time of year.

DNR explains why striped bass are so vulnerable in the summer. The agency writes, “During the summer months, as water temperatures increase and oxygen conditions worsen, striped bass become more stressed. Over the last ten years (2010-2019), Bay water conditions in Maryland have been especially poor during the months of July and August. Stressful conditions have worsened in recent years with both hotter than average water temperatures and worse than average oxygen conditions occurring over 55% of the time in July and 45% of the time in August.”

DNR says during the closure, anglers aren’t allowed to target striped bass, meaning they may not “catch, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, or attempt to catch striped bass or striped bass hybrids.” When fishing for other species, everyone must make an effort to avoid interacting with striped bass. You can, however, catch rockfish in non-Maryland waters and bring it back to shore in Maryland.

The Maryland Charter Boat Association says the loss of two summer weeks was a better option than some of the other proposed reductions DNR considered this spring.

Charter captains say they will make the best of the closure by focusing on other species.

“As Bay waters heat up, Spanish mackerel move up the Bay as they do every August, with bluefish mixed in.  And farther down the Bay (from Solomons south) red drum and cobia present more fishing opportunities.  Bottom fishing for white perch, catfish and Norfolk spot continues to be very good as well,” Maryland Charter Boat Association Secretary Bob Munro tells Bay Bulletin.

You can read the full set of Maryland DNR’s striped bass regulations for 2020 at https://news.maryland.gov/dnr/2020/05/15/chesapeake-bay-summer-fall-striped-bass-season-begins-may-16/.

-Meg Walburn Viviano