Vol 37 | Num 3 | May 16, 2012
Species Management Updates
Effective May 16th, Maryland regulations for tautog allow for two fish per person per day, with a minimum size of 16 inches. The 2 fish creel limit will remain in effect through October 31st.
Black Sea Bass
The 2012 season for black sea bass will officially open in the state waters of Maryland at 12:01 AM on May 19th. The minimum size will be 12.5-inches, and the daily creel limit will be 25 fish per person per day. Maryland state waters include the coastal bays, inlet, surf and offshore waters out three nautical miles and the Chesapeake Bay.
For the black sea bass fishery in Federal waters from 3 to 200 miles offshore, NOAA is working to open Federal waters as early as May 19th, however NOAA is cautioning that if the final rule is not published in time, the offshore fishery in Federal waters will open on May 22nd, the same date as last year. Please check the Maryland DNR or Coastal Fisherman websites for confirmation at: http://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries and www.coastalfisherman.net.
Black sea bass are highly sought by both commercial and recreational fishermen throughout the Mid-Atlantic. The species is jointly managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC).
The most recent assessment in 2010 indicated that the current population size is above the fisheries management biomass goal, and that overfishing is not occurring.
Black sea bass are managed by dividing a total annual quota between the recreational fishery (51%) and the commercial fishery (49%). Recreational fishery management measures include the same combination of minimum size limits, bag limits and fishing seasons set for the entire coast. The commercial quota is divided into state-by-state quotas annually. Specific management measures for the commercial fishery are set by each state, including minimum size limits, minimum mesh requirements for trawls, a moratorium on entry into the fishery and closed seasons
Black sea bass inhabit Atlantic coastal waters from the Gulf of Maine to the Florida Keys, concentrating in areas from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Two distinct stocks of black sea bass exist along the Atlantic coast with overlapping ranges. The northern stock, which migrates seasonally and spawns off of New England in the late summer, is managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commision and the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. The southern stock, which spawns off of the Chesapeake Bay in the early summer, is managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
Black sea bass are a temperate reef fish, inhabiting rocky bottoms near pilings, wrecks, and jetties. Black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites, which mean they start life as a female and when they reach 9 to 13-inches in length they change sex to become males, initiated by visual cues.
Proposed Free Fishing Area Regulations
With the expansion of the Chesapeake Bay Sportfish license (now known as the Chesapeake and Coastal Sportfishing license) to include Maryland’s coastal waters, requests for Free Fishing Areas locations on Maryland’s coast have been brought to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. To explore requests from the Town of Ocean City and the DNR’s Coastal Fisheries Advisory Committee, DNR Fisheries staff visited three recommended areas (Northside Park at 125th street, the bulkhead behind the Ocean City Convention Center at 42nd street and the Chicago Avenue bulkhead between 2nd and 4th streets). These three areas have been formally requested by the Town of Ocean City and the MD DNR’s Coastal Fisheries Advisory Committee. MD DNR Fisheries Service staff met with representatives of local bait & tackle stores, fishing clubs and town officials to obtain feedback on support for the three proposed areas. After review, the Department has proposed creating sites at Northside Park and Chicago Avenue. The proposal will be printed in the Maryland Register in mid-June. A 30-day public comment period would then take place. If there is no substantive opposition, the regulation to create the two free fishing areas could be enacted in August.