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Recreational anglers share the blame

      Now that most federal, state and associated conservation organizations are agreeing that the striped bass population is again in crisis, the finger pointing has started. Some are laying the blame on the recreational fisheries, some on commercial entities and others on over-harvest of the forage species on which rockfish rely. All play a role.
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Bad weather, bad news

      The opening day of Maryland’s trophy rockfish season was a bust, principally because April 20 was a windy mess with southern gusts to 30 knots. A quick survey of the Sandy Point Marina, where hundreds of boats are usually launched on the first day, revealed only two boat trailers in that enormous parking lot. A drive by the most popular shore-based fishing area, the Sandy Point Beach, showed a similar lack of anglers.
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Hobbes is a seven-week-old Lab pup

     When Hobbes arrived at our home Saturday evening, two things became apparent. Neither order nor melancholy can survive around a seven-week-old black Labrador puppy. Chaos and laughter, however, grow exponentially.
     It’s been more than three years since our female German shorthair pointer Sophie passed, long enough for the pain and sorrow of her absence to fade.
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After too many winter weeks off the water, I’m fishing again

     The first fish was a small crappie, but it generated as much enthusiasm as a state record-breaker. Our lucky angler, Ben, held it proudly aloft, his light spin rod bent over, as we all cheered his success. This diminutive fish was the first catch of the year.
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It’s not a sport if you always win
      I’m having trouble staying asleep through the night. That happens this time of year. Probably because of the pollen starting to pour off the surrounding trees, my sinuses are seizing up and threatening to suffocate me in the wee hours. But I know it’s not so simple. The growing warmth and lengthening days make a subconscious call to action. Spring is here and trophy rockfish season will soon be here.
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With rockfish numbers suffering, these prolific fighters make a good alternative

      Late last season I had a most unusual day on the water.
      Moving again after releasing a number of undersized schooly rockfish, I cruised south down toward the Bay Bridge. It was nearing the end of a falling tide, and my fish box, bait box, chum bag and patience were all verging on empty.
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The longer your boat’s operated reliably, the sooner you can expect a failure

      Pulling the weather cover off the stern of my skiff, I saw the first of my problems. Some time last fall I must have had to get into the winter-prepped boat. Why I’m not sure, but it was well forward in the console. That I could tell from the muddy tracks. Since the trail remained on my deck all winter, I knew it was going to take some elbow grease to get it scrubbed out. That job became No. 1 on my shakedown list.
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Trouble all over again in 2019

      The 2019 rockfish season is going to be challenging. Last year signaled population problems with warning signs we hadn’t seen before. 
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For chumming, I’ve got my answer

     Casting out our four rigs baited with fresh menhaden chunks, we awaited the bite. This was the third phase of an opportune experiment. It happened some time ago during a red-hot rockfish chum bite that stretched from the Bay Bridge down past Tolley Point and lasted well over a month. The bite was so consistent for so long we knew it would end soon.
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Don’t lose fish to tired old line

      As the 2019 fishing season begins, the most important thing you can do — aside from renewing your fishing license — is also the most affordable: replacing your fishing line. It is also the one thing most commonly ignored.
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