Spoiler alert: the Sea Pro 172 Bay isn’t an all-new model. Nor is it big and fancy, nor is it a status symbol of a boat. It is, however, a solidly built fishing machine that will get you out on the Chesapeake tributaries any day of the week and onto the open Bay when the wind isn’t pumping. And, unlike most fishing boats built in this day and age, it will do so in an eminently affordable manner. Heck, if you can buy a stripped Ford F-150, you can buy this boat — but it’s one heck of a lot more fun to drive.
The 172 Bay has a surprising number of features to its credit, too. The aft casting deck houses a pair of 12-gallon LED-lighted livewells and a flip-up seat, an Audison Audio stereo system comes stock, there’s a 34-gallon fishbox in the foredeck, and unlike many boats of this size you get four flush-mount rodholders in the gunwales and two more can be installed at the transom. A dual battery switch, compass, and a stainless-steel steering wheel with knob also appear on the standards list.
Optional items which will be must-haves for most anglers include the raw water washdown, vertical rodracks, and bow-mount trolling motor. And if you want this little angling machine loaded to the teeth you can have it, with goodies like an eight-inch hydraulic jack plate, Power Pole anchor, trim tabs, a Bimini top, and even underwater lights.
With 15-degrees of transom deadrise and 17’2” of LOA underfoot, naturally, you’ll be fishing this boat in the tribs just about anytime while choosing your days to enter the open Bay. And when the weather allows you can get where you’re going with plenty of zip. The 172 Bay can be rigged with up to 115 horses, but with a 90-hp outboard on the transom offers enough pep for most of us. Plan on cruising in the upper 20s in the 4500-rpm range and topping out at right around 40 mph. What’s even better is the fuel economy at cruising speeds. Running in the 20- to 30-mph range this boat gets around six mpg. That means filling the fuel tank will be a lot less painful as compared to most bay-capable boats after fishing all day.
Some other important details to note: Unlike many lower cost boats this one is rigged with a slick toggle switch breaker panel at the helm, the switches, cup holders, and grab rails are all stainless-steel, and cleats are pull-ups. The bottom line? The Sea Pro 172 may be small, but it’s built with far more accessories and far more quality than most of the small boats out there. And thanks to its size and weight you’ll have no problem hauling it from Cape Charles to Conowingo, whether your boring old land vehicle is a modest SUV or that Ford F-150.
Examining the features that distinguish one modern North Carolina build from another
Sport-fishing boats are a lot like horses. That’s not just because they share a measure of power, are a good ride, or often place lofty demands on our wallets. Unless you’ve got a trained eye to identify the differences between various boats—or a herd of horses—the only thing that helps each one stand apart from the other, for the casual onlooker anyway, also often boils down to color and size.
A modern handheld VHF radio can make time afloat better and safer. Being able to communicate with other boaters and rescue agencies makes having a VHF a necessity no matter how small your boat.
Your VHF radio should be your go-to communications in an emergency. The U.S. Coast Guard has a huge network of towers to listen in on distress calls and when you make a call, every other nearby boater with a radio on can also hear you, which increases your chance of getting help. Knowing a little about your VHF and how to make the call can help when you really need it.
Overfishing and four straight sub-par spawning seasons prompt governing body to increase restrictions on prized angling species along the Atlantic coast through October 2023.
It’s the bad news that’s been spreading through fish towns all along the Eastern Seaboard. At its May 2, 2023, meeting, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) took the rare step of introducing emergency measures to protect striped bass (aka rockfish) spawning stocks.
“This action responds to the unprecedented magnitude of 2022 recreational harvest, which is nearly double that of 2021,” reads the ASMFC announcement. As a result, commissioners recognized the chances of rebuilding the stock by its target year of 2029 were diminishing. The last year of a “well above average” striped bass spawn was 2015, and the fish hatched that year are now approximately 31 to 32 inches long. To protect this strong year-class of mature breeding fish, the emergency measure institutes a 31-inch maximum size – and that’s coastwide, regardless of state. The emergency measures are in effect through October 28, 2023.
These emergency measures require all jurisdictions to implement new rules as soon as possible and no later than July 2, 2023. Previous maximum size for coastal striped bass slot limits varied by state, with most enforcing a 28- to 35-inch slot for harvestable fish.
“Controlling coastwide fishing mortality is the key to rebuilding striped bass abundance to levels the public expects and deserves,” says David Sikorski, executive director of CCA Maryland and Maryland’s legislative appointee to the striped bass management board. “It’s also important to recognize, however, that striper recruitment issues related to successive poor spawns, coupled with an expanding blue catfish population in Chesapeake Bay, will continue to complicate the longer-term trajectory of this iconic fishery.”
The emergency measure was taken with the future stock in mind.
ASMFC is an interstate agency consisting of the coastal Atlantic states, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The agency was formed by compact in 1942 to manage species that are migratory and thus don’t respect state boundaries. Striped bass is one of the most contentious fish to manage because it’s both an important commercially harvested fish and the No. 1 recreational sportfish chased along the Mid- and North-Atlantic coast.
Further actions could be taken to address the striped bass situation at the ASMFC Summer Meeting beginning July 31.
Many fish in the middle Bay are returning to their summer patterns now that water temperatures are in the mid 60’s. After a tough trophy season, many anglers were excited for the return of the summer rockfish season which opened on May 16th. The striped bass regulation maps can be found at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website. This is accompanied by a new slot limit of 19 to 31 inches. We haven’t received many reports on the rockfish, but it seems the open water jigging bite is decent, though you may need to cover some ground. Travis Long, who runs Schooled Up Fishing Charters, has found good success jigging for rockfish this week. He put his anglers on lots of fish in the 20 to 30 inch range and found fish from 15 to 30 feet of water. One half ounce and three-quarter ounce G-Eye Jigs paired with five-inch chartreuse Z-Man diesel minnows were the hot bait.