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How the Chesapeake Stacks Up

To a North Sea fisherman, we’re in heaven

Fishing Britain’s North Sea, Richard Fraser had never caught a rockfish before coming to Chesapeake Bay.

I coaxed the bow of my skiff in close to the Bay Bridge piling and shifted into neutral. The tide had slowed to a crawl, and the southerly breeze was still soft, so it was no problem holding our boat a half dozen feet off the down-current side of the piling.
    My fishing partner in the bow, Richard Fraser, thumbed his reel into free spool and lofted a six-inch spot toward the back eddy. The baitfish hit the water about a foot from the pier and zoomed down toward the bottom some 30 feet below. It never made it.

Fishfinder

  Despite the shifting scenes of action and seasonally smaller fish, rockfish remain superb. Trolling continues to produce reliably larger fish when bigger lures are towed. Live-lining with larger spot (six inches and over) is often effective in eliminating smaller stripers. Some anglers continue to chum with great results, occasionally scoring rockfish to 34 inches.
  Redfish are showing up in some areas, most notably the Eastern Bay, and in impressive slot sizes, well over 18 but under 27 inches. The biggest impediment to locating the reds is the excellent rockfish bite. Not many people have been investigating the shallows that redfish favor to feed and are instead encountering them while deep-jigging for rock, not exactly a sure formula for locating reds.
  Perch and spot fishing remains excellent, while the croaker bite is producing only small and medium-sized fish except at the Gooses down Breezy Point way, where they are ranging to 18 inches and still numerous. Across the Bay on the Eastern Shore, The False Channel remains a hot spot for stripers to 26 inches. Spanish mackerel are getting easier and easier to find down there as well.
  Crabbing has gotten a little bit better lately. Maryland Department of Natural Resources is apparently adjusting the harvest on females.

Hunting Season

Mourning dove: thru Oct. 5
Rail birds: thru Nov. 9
Ruffed Grouse: thru Jan. 31
Resident Canada goose: Eastern Zone: thru Sept. 14; Western Zone: thru Sept. 25. Calvert County is in the Eastern zone. Anne Arundel divides. For zone boundaries, see www.eregulations.com/maryland/mdhd12/early-resident-canada-goose-seasons....

    “Uh oh, something’s going on,” he said. Seeing his mono making a cut for the far side of the piling, I wanted to warn him to come tight or he’d get wrapped. But this wasn’t Richard’s first rodeo. Before I could utter a word he had cinched the fish up and had a good bend in his rod.
    I shifted into reverse and backed away to give him some room to do battle. The striper turned and made for more open water, taking drag and getting some good distance from our boat.
    “Dennis, this is a good one. He’s definitely taking charge here,” Richard said through clenched teeth.
    “Hang in there, and don’t give it any slack,” I said.
    He didn’t need the advice, though, and within minutes had a 26-incher on its side and in the cooler. “What a beauty,” he said.
    This was already Richard’s fourth striper that morning and the best size he had landed so far and the first one of this species he had ever put in a fish box. “This is a far cry from the North Sea,” he said, referring to his home in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.
    I met Richard at the funeral of my friend of many years, and Richard’s brother-in-law, Sandy Sempliner.
    Sandy had succumbed to a pernicious form of cancer after a difficult 18-month struggle. While Sandy was in treatment we had often made plans to fish the Bay together again when he recovered. But that was not to be. Now Richard was standing in on the promise my old friend and I had made.
    The first piling we tried had held only smaller fish, but the next one proved to be a bonanza. The fish were so thick, eager and big that we abandoned the count-to-five-before-setting-the-hook rule of live-lining. As soon as we felt a pickup, we would come tight.
    We missed more than a few fish, but by striking as soon as the striper seizes our bait we also avoided deep-hooking the hungry biters and could release all but the larger sizes.
    My new friend was quite a dedicated angler, I learned over the two hours we fished. He enjoyed trout and salmon fishing on the manicured rivers of England. But he loved rough-and-tumble saltwater fishing for cod and mackerel on the North Sea off of Northumberland, an environment not for the faint of heart.
    With constant winds, 15-foot tides, harsh seas and summertime air and water temperatures rarely above 60 degrees, North Sea fishing is a sport for the dedicated.
    “Dennis, you don’t know how lucky you are to have all this great salt sport, so close and so comfortable,” he said of our Chesapeake.