As the Maryland drift net season for local rockfish comes to a close on March 1st, the Virginia fishermen are gearing up to hit the waters. But with poor reproduction rates since 2018, the local rockfish population is struggling. Maryland’s smart move to end the season allows these fish some much-needed rest before they start to spawn in mid-March. The stakes are high, and we need to support their successful spawn this year.
In Virginia, the local rock fishery is managed distinctly from Maryland, but this approach presents its own set of problems. Fishermen are provided a specific number of tags rather than a total weight limit, which incentivizes them to catch larger fish to maximize their profits. However, the reproduction of larger adult rockfish has been poor for most of the past decade, resulting in fewer of these fish each year. This creates a difficult situation as we are now encouraging fishermen to target the very size fish that we need to have participate in spawning in order to produce a substantial juvenile year class.