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Anglers Urged to Help Protect Maryland’s State Fish

Rockfish Face Added Stress in Summer

Photo of striped bass being caught from a boat

Photo by Roy Julie

Fishing for striped bass in Maryland is an annual rite of summer, but anglers are advised to follow a few basic measures to help protect the iconic species during the hottest part of the season.

Seasonal high water temperatures and low oxygen can cause fish to become sensitive and stressed, with increased mortality during catch-and-release. Larger striped bass – 24 inches or larger – will have the most difficulty with these conditions.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources recommends that fish be unhooked in the water using a pair of needle-nosed pliers.¬†Anglers should also avoid excessive handling that can damage the fish’s protective layer, and cause skin lesions and sores.

During these hot summer months, the department also encourages anglers not to practice catch-and-release fishing for rockfish after reaching their two-fish limit.

“Our conservation efforts are designed to keep Maryland’s fishing stock abundant and healthy, but a combination of natural factors make midsummer weeks an especially sensitive time for striped bass,” Fishing and Boating Services Director David Blazer said. “Simple fishing tactics, which can and should be used year round, can help assure more fish survive the summer.”

To reduce the mortality rate of rockfish, the department introduced revised regulations that include the required use of circle hooks, which catch fish in the corner of the mouth. These hooks cause less internal damage and also mean less time out of the water. The department recommends using circle hooks in sizes of 9/0-10/0. 

Maryland’s new striped bass regulations are in effect through the end of the 2019 season. At that time, the department will use new stock assessment data to determine if the new conservation actions and measures are preventing striped bass mortality in Chesapeake Bay as designed and intended.