11/12/2019 Update: We were informed today that the scoping document had to be released for the below mentioned regulations in advance of other potential scoping documents because of the earlier timing of the affected seasons. Had the DNR not done so, there wouldn't have been sufficient time to consider and/or pass these regulations prior to March.

Original Article: The Maryland DNR released a “Scoping of Possible Regulations” document for public comment over the weekend, which is open for comment until November 10; follow the link to see the proposed changes to fishing regulations. But before you do so, check out this snapshot of a slide presented during the Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission meeting last week.

proposed striped bass regulation changes
We're not claiming to be a bunch of math wizards, but why has the scoping process been initiated with measures accounting for just 6.94-percent, or about a third of the "target" reduction? The measures being put forth now are clearly not the entire story.

You may note a slight discrepancy between the two. The scoping document lists out two of the eight “Conservation Equivalency Tools” showed on the slide, the first one pushing back the opening of trophy season to May 1 and the second prohibiting catch and release fishing March 1 through April 30. By their figures these two measures account for a 6.94-percent reduction in striped bass mortality. 6.94-percent of what, you may ask? We’re not sure either, since no specific numbers of fish were used, just percentages of reduction – utilizing the scientifically unsubstantiated nine-percent release mortality figure across the board equally for fish caught and released regardless of variables like time of year, water temperature, and bait vs. lure fishing.

Obviously, 6.94-percent doesn’t come close to the target 20-percent reduction. So without even addressing the quality of the science behind these options, one must wonder why two small pieces of the 2020 regulation puzzle are now being “scoped” without any reference whatsoever to the remaining 13.06-percent.

It’s already been made crystal clear that the powers that be expect recreational anglers to take the brunt of the reduction, while the commercial fishery shares an excruciatingly small portion of the burden. Yes, we understand that reductions directly impact the income of people in the commercial sector. However, one must wonder if the economic impact on the many tackle shops, marinas, charter boats, and associated businesses, will be crippling when the full scope of future Scopings becomes clear.

One must also wonder if the economic impact study that was required (by law) prior to these regulation changes reflects a dollar figure for the impact of a 1.8-percent reduction to the commercial sector, versus the impact of a 20-percent reduction to the recreational sector. But wondering is all we can do, since no such study nailing down these specific impacts has been released to the public.

Wait a sec –the commercial sector will likely face a mere 1.8-percent reduction, while the recreational sector takes a 20-percent reduction? But, on the face of it that seems exceedingly unfair, doesn’t it? Why isn’t the reduction 50-50, shared and shared alike? Doesn’t this effectively shift a large proportion of the allowed catch from recreational to commercial hands?

Keep these questions in mind as you provide your public input (via the link to the Scoping document, above). However, also note that the recreational sector’s public input seems to have had little effect on anything thus far and it may be more effective to contact your state representatives and especially the Governor’s office directly. In any case, make your voice heard. Because the recreational fishing industry in Maryland really is getting “scoped” right now – in more ways than one.