The Star Democrat - - OPINION - Rock­fish reg­u­la­tions don’t help the fish­ery

We bought a va­ca­tion home on Til­gh­man Is­land 12 years ago. We do a lot of fish­ing around the is­land. From per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, I can tell you there are hordes of smaller rock­fish in the cen­tral Bay and its trib­u­taries.

Cur­rently, state reg­u­la­tions make it il­le­gal to keep rock un­der 19 inches. How this helps the fish­ery is a mys­tery to me. This time of year, re­cre­ational fish­er­men catch and re­lease quite a few smaller fish in or­der to ob­tain their twofish limit. This process is killing many smaller rock. Many fish are re­leased fatally in­jured, man­gled or with hooks in throat. When the fish­ing is slow, some use tre­ble or dou­ble tre­ble hooks, which is even more fa­tal. This prac­tice is also a vi­o­la­tion of law, but no­body seems to care. The reg­u­la­tions, as they stand, are do­ing noth­ing to pre­serve the fish­ery. In fact, the kill rate is astro­nom­i­cal be­cause of the law.

I think it would be far wiser and bet­ter to the fish­ery to lower the Rock­fish limit to 15 inches and al­low no culling. This way fewer fish would be killed or in­jured. Fish­er­men can ob­tain their limit eas­ier with less stress on the fish­ery. Be­sides all that, the smaller fish taste bet­ter. These smaller fish also are far more in­dis­crim­i­nate in their feed­ing habits. They eat any­thing that fits in their mouth and have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the Bay’s com­mer­cial crab har­vest. This is par­tic­u­larly true in re­la­tion to smaller crabs which an in­di­vid­ual rock will eat by the score.

I’m no po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist. I’m sure how­ever the reg­u­la­tions are es­tab­lished is com­plex with a lot of meet­ings and opin­ions dis­cussed. Who­ever thinks the cur­rent laws make sense never saw a school of ju­ve­nile rock feed­ing. They can wit­ness this mid-Oc­to­ber in the Chop­tank if they care to. They could also go live lin­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence what I am say­ing first hand. FRANK LEADEM


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