Maryland spring trophy rockfish season opens for 2020 with little information and lots of questions, thanks in part to the need to practice social distancing while fishing, in part due to the mandated absence of pre-fishing, and of course all the regulation changes. For the latest update on those regulations, visit the Maryland striped bass eregulations page, and for maps of open areas see the Maryland DNR Fisheries Maps page. You'll note that regs and maps are nailed down only through May 15, and although you can find some additional information on what the rest of the season looks like at our Summer 2020 FIsheries Update, we must recommend you keep constant tabs on the ever-changing information by constantly visiting the DNR sites. So: What does opening day look like, for 2020?
The bottom line on intel: we have virtually none. Since catch and release fishing was eliminated for the entire month of April, pre-fishing has been nonexistent. We do know that catch and release trollers were doing pretty fantastic through March, even while limited to six lines and crimped barbs. The usual tandems and umbrellas in white and chartreuse were doing the trick and some boats trolled up as many as a dozen a day despite the limited firepower.
Anglers in Jersey are few and far between right now (their marinas just opened back up a little over a week ago) but those that did get out recently reported strong catches of large stripers, which are likely fish that spawned here then headed north. But we also know that at least as of last week, pound netters here were finding their nets plugged with rockfish of all shape and sizes. So while it seems that many fish spawned and cruised long ago, they certainly haven't all left Maryland waters.
Water temps are plenty high for active striper fishing, and are as follows:
- 51 to 54 in the Upper Chesapeake Bay
- 53 to 56 in the Middle Chesapeake Bay
- 55 to 58 in the Lower Chesapeake Bay
Historically speaking that's a solid five to 10 degrees higher than one might expect for an opening day, which should bode well for those anglers who want to try fishing with bunker baits on bottom. If you missed it, be sure to check out our video on bait fishing as a method of opening day sustenance fishing for a combination of rockfish and catfish.
Remember, right now for Marylanders it's sustenance fishing, only, and while those catfish may not be quite as exciting to catch as a trophy rockfish, particularly in the Upper Bay there are hordes of them around.
What about Virginia's trophy season? It's off, replaced with a slot season starting in a couple of weeks. So, should Marylanders be going out and catching these big breeder fish, in the first place? That's truly a moral dilemma. On the one hand we certainly wouldn't want to deny someone their shot at a fish of a lifetime - something that does happen for many folks each and every year on the Chesapeake Bay. On the other hand, it seems to make sense to leave the big breeder fish alone. That's why long ago we simply asked anglers to consider all sides of the debate, and if they decided to fish for trophies, think about what's best for the fishery in addition to just adhering to legal limits. (See Spring Trophy Striper Season Pros and Cons, for the full story).
For those of you anglers hitting the water in search of a trophy striper: good luck, stay safe, and stay up to date on the latest rules and regs regarding both the season and the situational restrictions. Perhaps more now than ever before, it's clear that every day we can spend fishing on the Bay is precious - whether the action is red hot or not.