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Changes are here and more are coming

There was big news this past week out of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

As you are probably aware, the striped bass population along the Atlantic coast has continued to decline, and conservation measures must be enacted for the 2020 fishing season to hopefully boost the stock.

The targeting of striped bass by recreational fishermen will be prohibited — including a prohibition of trolling — for the entire month of April. The start of spring trophy season will also be delayed until May 1. The daily limit will be one fish per person with a 35-inch minimum.

Will forbidding anglers to target striped bass for cold water catch and release in April make any difference? This writer thinks probably not.

The fishing mortality rate is much, much lower in April than in July or August when water temperatures can be as warm as bathwater.

I know my opinion won’t be popular with everyone, but how about ending trophy season?

If you know the history of the striped bass comeback after the total moratorium in the 80s, we shouldn’t be having a trophy season anyway. A whole lot of big breeders have been removed from the wild population during trophy season, and I’d argue they are worth more in the water than out. They are the future of this resource.

More change is yet to come. DNR will post changes for the May 16 through December season soon, and the public will have a chance to weigh in on these decisions.

One of those possible changes is a one-fish limit for recreational anglers and a two-fish limit per person on a charter.

I’m going to throw my support behind that idea. It’ll keep those captains in business. Lots of folks I know go on one charter a year, and that’s the only fishing they do. A one-fish limit would probably dissuade a sizable number of clients from booking a trip. This change might also cut down the number of dead discards from the recreational sector, too, if you believe that’s the root cause of the striped bass decline.

Stay tuned for what’ll be happening on the Potomac River. The Potomac River Fisheries Commission is set to make their decision next month. If you have a comment, you can email it to martingary.prfc@gmail.com until 5 p.m. March 3.

Join the SMRFO

Not happy with these new regulations? Wish your comments would be taken seriously? Want your voice heard loud and clear when decisions that affect recreational fishing are being made?

If you have these sorts of questions, then you should join the Southern Maryland Recreational Fishing Organization. You can find out more about the organization online at www.smrfo.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/598428253621775. The Facebook page is open to the public.

SMRFO meets monthly and hosts guest speakers who offer advice for improving fishing skills, educate members about fishing sustainability and discuss issues important for recreational fishermen in Southern Maryland.

It doesn’t end there, though. Each spring, SMRFO organizes an amazing Fishing Fair and Safe Boating Expo. Mark your calendars, the next one will be held March 21 and 22 at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds.

If you’re a civic-minded angler, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer with SMRFO in their many outreach programs to teach children how to fish and to take veterans fishing.

And did I mention SMRFO lobbies for sustainable fisheries? The more squeak the wheel can make, the more grease it’s going to get!

The next monthly meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Solomons Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department at the corner of Route 4 and Dowell Road.

The meeting is open to the public. Bring your husband or wife or fishing buddy and go out to dinner at one of the many fine restaurants on Solomons Island beforehand to make it a truly enjoyable evening.

The speakers will be David Sikorski, executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland, and St. Mary’s River Watershed Association executive director Bob Lewis. They will present how to create and deploy reef balls to make oyster and fishing sanctuaries in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Deer numbers increased

In a column earlier this year, I wrote that with all the wild turkeys I see around my neck of the woods, it would be no surprise for this season’s turkey hunting season numbers to be up. And they were.

But boy am I glad I didn’t make any forecasts in print on this year’s deer numbers.

The wet winter coupled with a very warm couple of days in January for the second split of firearms season had me thinking the numbers would be down ever so slightly. I was dead wrong.

DNR reported that Maryland hunters harvested nearly 80,000 deer this season, which was 3% higher than the 2018-2019 total.

What really shocked me was the breakdown of numbers by county. The harvest in Calvert County was up 6.6%, but that’s just peanuts compared to the 36.4% increase in Charles County and 33.7% increase in St. Mary’s County.

Maryland’s deer population is healthy and robust, and hunting is the best way to thin the herd to make room for the next spring’s additions. That’s a lot of venison in local hunters’ freezers, and many less deer to contend with on the roads.

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