No bombshells seen for fishing rules in 2017 – Delmarva Daily Times

Right now there are a lot of anglers contemplating the new fishing season and wondering how it’s going to stack up to last year. Better? Worse? The same? As fishermen are typically optimistic bunch, I expect that most are probably thinking, or at least hoping, that 2017 will be their best season ever, and there are certainly more than just a few who have already started planning out a strategy that will bring them to that end.


Of course the difference between someone having an average and a great season is the result of many variables, some are within our control and others aren’t. We can spend the winter months cleaning, greasing, and tuning our equipment, learning new techniques, practicing our casting, getting new tackle, buying new boats, scheduling time off from work and arranging our lifestyle so that when the fish start biting we won’t be saddled with other commitments or diversions that keep us away from the action.

While all that can help us immensely, what we won’t be able to control are factors such as the weather, the number and type of fish that work their way into our area this season, and just how many times Lady Luck is willing to come along for the ride.


There’s another factor that comes to play about this time each year that can sometimes have dramatic influence on the final outcome our fishing season, and it’s one that we all have “a little” but “not a lot” of influence over, and that would be the multitude of government regulations that dictate how, when, and where we can fish, as well as the type, number, and size of fish that we can both fish for and retain.

“Fishery regulations” just like the weather can make or break a fishing season, and it’s about this time every year that we start hearing what our state and federal fishery managers have up their sleeves for us for the new season. New regulations can totally shut down a fishery or, in some “rare” cases, can be relaxed in ways that allow anglers more and better opportunities to participate in a fishery.


Right now Delmarva anglers don’t know for sure what all the new regulations for 2017 will look like because some of the laws must finish going through the public meeting and comment process before they can finally become official. We’ve have, however, been given the final word on a few, and a good inkling of what’s likely to come with some others.


Black sea bass season last year ran from May 15 until Sept. 21 and then Oct. 22 until Dec. 31. The season is closed right now and we’re still waiting to hear when the opening and closing dates will be. We do know, however, that the minimum size of 12.5 inches and catch limit of 15-fish per angler will stay the same in 2017.


Flounder regulations are looking to pretty much be “status-quo” with a season that runs all year long, a four-fish per person bag limit, and a 16” minimum size limit.


Striped bass anglers fishing Maryland’s coast waters have traditionally fished at a two fish at 28” or above limit until last year when it switched to two stripers per day that fall between 28-38” or 44” and above. This year the size and creel limits will be the same as in 2016.


It could be that one of the most dramatic changes we see in fishery regulations this season will be in the recreational shark fishery as the National Marine Fisheries Service is very seriously contemplating requiring that anglers get a “shark endorsement” on their annual HMS permit if they intend to fish for sharks this year. To get this endorsement, anglers will likely have to view an online tutorial on shark species identification and then take a short quiz to verify that they have some basic shark identification skills. New regulations might also require that anglers use circle hooks whenever they are targeting sharks.


Cobia fishermen were not happy last year that NMFS closed cobia fishing in federal waters (more then three miles out) because they determined that too many cobia had been caught in the southern states during the winter months. Hopefully that won’t happen again this year so that Delmarva anglers will again be allowed to retain cobia caught in both state and federal waters.


So, other than the possibility of some changes in shark fishing regulations, there are no major bombshells expected to fall on fishermen this year, and as long as Mother Nature and Lady Luck work with us — this could be one great season!

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