A new Maryland "slot" regulation will limit anglers who fish in the Potomac River and upper Chesapeake Bay to only one bass measuring more than 15 inches.
A new "slot" regulation addressing a decline in bass fisheries in the Potomac River and upper Chesapeake Bay may force the Potomac River Bassmaster Elite Series event scheduled for the summer to be cancelled. The change in fish-length requirements was imposed during the week of March 15, 2016.
Here's more about proposed rule change from the blog Bassfan:
The new regulation, which was mandated without stakeholder discussion or any prior warning, limits anglers participating in tournaments on the Potomac and upper Chesapeake between June 16 and Oct. 31 to possession of only one bass in excess of 15 inches. The Elite event, set for Aug. 11-14, falls directly in the middle of that timeframe.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources believes the new rule will address the decline of bass fisheries in these two important bodies of water.
Here are the two options the agency has proposed to address this issue while maintaining the event:
Option 1: The following language is added to the director's permit: "For tournaments held from June 16 to October 31 at Maryland weigh-in locations on the Potomac River or Upper Chesapeake Bay (Susquehanna, Northeast, Elk, Susquehanna flats), participating anglers are limited to a 12 inch minimum size and a possession limit of 5 bass (largemouth and smallmouth combined), only one of which may be 15 inches or greater (per angler, per day). Therefore, an angler can weigh-in 5 fish over 12" but only one of these fish may be 15"and bigger."
Option 2: The following language is added to the director's permit: "All rules and conditions within the Special Conditions for Black Bass Tournaments must be followed and among these are: a) Allows anglers to participate within existing possession regulations (5 fish creel, 12 inch minimum size, no maximum) for tournaments held from June 16 to October 31; b) Requires directors to recover exhausted bass following a tournament and redistribute them to approved locations; c) Requires all anglers to possess a free participant permit; d) Requires other actions to improve survival of large bass."
"While this modification does not address all the concerns we heard, it should alleviate some significant concerns while still meeting the goal of reducing fishing mortality."
Many bass anglers have expressed great concern with the proposed change because they were not alerted or informed about the changes.
B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin expressed great concern for this new regulation, citing the weight rule would interfere with the tournament.
"Although we understand Maryland DNR's desire to address a decline in the bass fisheries of the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay, obviously we could not conduct an Elite event on waters where anglers cannot weigh in the fish they catch," Akin said. "That would not be fair to the anglers, the fans, the hosts or the sportfishing community."
"The way the rule is written right now, guys will be fishing for four 14 3/4-inch fish and one big one," said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. "The Elite Series would have to adhere to the current regulations unless the DNR makes some changes.
Scott Sewell, the longtime conservation director of the Maryland B.A.S.S. Nation, added: "It's ill conceived with no input from the real world. I'm very disappointed that they didn't even give us a phone call to ask for our input. We would've said it's just not workable.
"I fully expect this thing to be withdrawn," Sewell added. "If they stand by this, I will be shocked."
While it's important to encourage sustainable fisheries, certain regulations imposed on fishing like this--especially fish-length requirements--may be a stretch too far. It'll be interesting to see if the Maryland Department of Natural Resources accepts input from anglers and tournament participants before imposing a rule that could have serious consequences.