Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chesapeake Bay Rockfishing 2015, 2016, 2017 means 20% less harvest but with 100% great adventures to come! Book today!

Rockfishing in the Chesapeake Bay has been a staple of outdoor recreation for years. Anglers flock to the bridge pilings, cast in the tributaries, and troll open water all in an effort to bring home some delicious white tasty fillets. Rockfishing is a huge boost to tourism in many areas around the Bay especially during the fall and spring seasons. Many of us anglers have enjoyed the resurgence of Rockfish over the last decade, however that soon may be changing, at least by 20%.

Recently I spoke with a VMRC official who clearly explained to me that the Rockfish quota for Recreational fisherman will be reduced by 20% for 2015, 2016, and 2017. Commercial quotas will be reduced as well. The thing is for now, we don’t really know how that will shake out as to what the limits will be. VMRC is doing their due diligence in determining how bag limits will be changed regarding the amount of catch, and the size. All these variables will be considered based on the hope that reduced take will help aid in the rebound of the declining brood stock.

Regulating authorities don’t only look at just the Chesapeake Bay, their research is based on both resident and migratory fish. This means the overall numbers include the tributaries, Bay, and offshore Rockfish. VMRC wants your input and is very happy to listen to what anglers have to say. The bottom line is everyone wants a healthier stock, however can this be done and also maintain a healthy economic fishery for business that profit from the seasonal Rockfishng?

A 20% reduction may or may not cause a big alarm in the charter community. This all depends on how the rules and regulations are broken out and this we do not yet know so it is important to give VMRC your input. The best way is to attend the next finfish meeting, send emails, etc, so our voice can be heard. (

One problem that I see is that currently the limit is only two fish per person. That is not a lot of fish per person when you consider the cost of charters, travel, accommodations, lodging, meals etc. Heading out for a day of Rockfish can be an expensive trip for only two keepers. If the quota calls for less take per person this probably would not be good for the charter business. Hopefully the new regulations will allow the two fish limit with different regulations regards to minimum maximum size, length of season, etc. Governing authorities will favor on the side of protecting the species and that is what they should do. However they also do take in consideration the fishing community’s needs and do their best to find a balance that still will best benefit the increased numbers of brood stock.

So for everyone that benefits from a healthy Rockfish season, here is what you can do. Make your voices heard! This is exactly what VMRC told me to say in this article. Contact VMRC in regards to all meetings, hearings, and anything pertaining to the new regulations being discussed for the 2015 season and beyond. They are more than happy to hear from you.

What else can you do?

Catch your limit then go back to the dock and enjoy the rest of the day. For chartering I highly recommended half day trips. These trips are good for the anglers, the charter, and the tourism industry. By scheduling two half day trips a boat can simply fish more anglers and more tourism dollars coming to an area to fish. Half day trips are also more economical for most anglers and it usually does not take that long to limit out anyway during the hot time of the season.

What you don’t want to do is catch and release a ton of Rockfish only to see a large percent of them float on by further down the Bay. I myself years ago have been guilty of this and charters sometime like to do it because the paying customers want some more “Pullage” past their limit. This also made great filming for our TV show, simply constantly catching and releasing Rockfish non stop made for exciting viewing.

But, I learned in time that this was not the right thing to do. I have seen WAY to many Rockfish that never lived to bite another hook due to catch and release. The best thing you can do is to happily catch your limit, then go back to the dock, clean the boat and get ready for a delicious Rockfish dinner. Now I know that there are a lot of fisherman that will disagree with this because the like to enjoy catching Rockfish over and over again, just like I do. But, overall it is just not a good practice. The reason for limits is to protect the species and simply abiding to keeping or catching\releasing your limit and moving on, is what’s best for the fishery.

One other important thing that you can do is to support your local charter captain and tackle store. Any businesses that are local and there to cater to the outdoor recreational sportsman please support. The “Ma and Pops” need your tourist and angling dollars more than ever, especially when looking at an additional 20% reduction in recreational take. If the keep quota gets cut, still go out and book a charter! Support the captains so they will be here in the future. The fact is it is not really about how many fish you bring home, it is the experience of the outing. These are the things one remembers most about a great day on the water.

The times and experiences you will share on the water are memories that last for a lifetime and it is not all just about the fish, its’ about the experience.

For example this year I had the opportunity to fish again with Captain Buddy Harrison and filmed on board his charter for our 25th anniversary special. We went out in the Bay and limited out in only a few minutes and that was fine. But it was not the number or size of fish that made a huge impression on me. No, it was not. What memories that will last a lifetime was talking with Captain Buddy in the helm station about his many years on the water and some of the outrageous stories he told. Yes, we were spinning some serious yarn. I learned a lot from Buddy and his son that day and those memories do last a lifetime.

Sadly Captain Buddy passed only months after we filmed the show. I certainly will remember my time with Buddy much more than the Rockfish we caught, but when you have both!! Now there is a day!! And folks THAT is what it is all about!

So, regardless of the 20% reduction in Rockfish for the upcoming years, get out there and enjoy the experience of a great outdoor adventure and support the people who make a living on the water. Support the marine industry and the fishery with every opportunity you can.
Memories that last a lifetime!

One other note for all of you traveling outdoor enthusiast. Contact the local tourism authority for good information as to where to stay, local attractions that the family can enjoy, accommodations info, etc. They are there to aid in your travels and usually glad to help. Also when you leave your destination, it is always a productive idea to contact the local CVB or tourism agency and tell them what you thought of your visit, things you liked and things you would like to see improved. It does matter and local authorities need to hear from our sportsman as to what our needs are regarding where we are staying, launching, etc.

Make your outdoor voice heard!

At the time of this article, Rockfish season for 2014 is still rockin and the bite is on!

Plan on making some new memories that will last a lifetime today!

See you on the water,

Tight Lines and Godspeed.

Jim Baugh
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PS: CLICK HERE for one of our all time most requested recipes on Jim’s Galley, ROCKFISH TACOS!

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