A fish is not worth risking your life for.
That's the message authorities in Virginia delivered Friday, a day after rescuing six capsized striper anglers from the chilly waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
The incidents, which occurred near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and Tangier Sound, follow a rash of near catastrophes in the past week involving anglers using small boats to catch the popular sport fish.
"This is a trend. We're seeing more and more of it," said John M.R. Bull, a spokesman for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.
Every autumn, thousands of anglers converge on the bay to catch stripers, also known as striped bass or rockfish. It's not uncommon to see dozens of boats parked next to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and other structures in an effort to nab one.
The fish, which typically grow to 20 inches and weigh 30 pounds, are moving from the bay's tributaries to deeper channels downstream. They are prized not only for their meat but also the fight they give anglers.
Authorities in the past few years have noticed more anglers using kayaks and skiffs in lieu of powerboats. The experience puts them closer to the water and it's generally a less expensive way to fish.
It's also more dangerous, said David Bourbeau, an ensign with the U.S. Coast Guard in Portsmouth. Small boats, especially kayaks, are more susceptible to waves and being jostled around by stripers, he said.
Without a flashlight, flare or some other light to signal a capsized angler's location, it can be difficult for rescuers to locate them, he said.
"You're essentially looking for a basketball floating on top of the water at night," he said.
Authorities stopped short of discouraging anglers from using small boats to catch stripers, however, they said more emphasis needs to be placed on safety.
"Is it worth risking your life for a fish?" Bull said.
Stay safe. Fishing tips
* Always wear a life jacket.
* Carry a VHF radio or, at least, a cellular phone.
* Carry a flashlight, flair, or horn.
* Let people know where you're fishing before you go.