I have had this feeling for some time — that our sport fishing season in the Mid-Atlantic is getting shorter with climate change, that the only time to practice catch-and-release fishing is in the colder weather, October through maybe Memorial Day. Those who maintain a tradition of sport fishing in summer — whether on the Chesapeake Bay or inland on ponds, rivers, lakes or the big impoundments — are in for an awakening. They’re going to be uncomfortable under the sun, the water temperatures are going to increase and anglers are going to kill more fish.
With surface temperatures reaching 85 and even 90 degrees, reducing oxygen levels, even large and smallmouth bass will be stressed. (Warmer waters cause strangulating algae blooms and make fish more vulnerable to parasites and diseases.)
Trout? I am quickly coming to the conclusion that we have no business fishing for wild trout in this region during summer months in all but the coldest tailwaters, and those of us who fly fish should devote time in July through September to tying flies for the fall, winter and spring.
The Bay? It’s overfished. Maryland already has a mid-summer closure period from July 16 through July 31 — anglers prohibited from targeting rockfish, including catch-and-release and charter boats — and it ought to be longer. The problem of rockfish mortality in summer has become grave.
My advice to anglers: Find something else to do in the boiling hot days ahead, including September. (With droughts, September can be one of the worst months for stressing fish you don’t intend to put in a frying pan.)
Here’s poetic advice from Dick Allen:
You reach a point, a peninsula really,
where the sea-roar comes from all three sides at once
& out ahead of you there are dark waves,
eight hours of night & you back off