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The Key to Catching Fish

Fishing’s unpredictable, so you need to be able to adapt

Harrison shows the 29-inch striper he caught live-lining.
       We were drifting inside of the green channel marker off of Podickery Point when my son got a quizzical look on his face. Staring at the rapidly turning spool of his reel Harrison said, “I think I’m hung up.”
     “No, I don’t think so,” I replied. “Give it a minute.” The spool stopped for a beat, then started up again even faster.
       I had promised my middle son success on some nice rockfish, forgetting that if you wish to amuse the fish gods, simply announce your plans. We intended to drift soft crab, based on a hot tip from a charter boat skipper who had scored exceedingly well the day before.
      Perfect, I thought, on waking. I knew just where the fish would likely be that morning and just what bait to use. But when I began my early-hour quest for crab, source after source said, ‘sorry, sold out.’ I feared that if the rockfish were keying on crab, anything else would be a very distant second choice.
     At 10am, armed only with a bag of scraggly bloodworms purchased in desperation, we finally motored out to try live-lining.
      It took a half-hour to find some likely marks off the edge of a nearby river channel before we could drop down pieces of worm on our No. 6 hooks. Feeling the tic-tic-tic of our rigs’ sinkers bouncing over shell bottom was reassuring, and soon we were swinging a couple of four- to five-inch perch.
       I filled our live well, hooked up the aerator and deposited the baitfish with a sense of relief. Perhaps we could tempt some rockfish to eat after all.
      Once we had a dozen small perch in our well, we headed for the Bay Bridge. It was almost noon, and the sun was bright and high.
       About half way to our destination, we approached a cluster of boats sitting on chum slicks. Their anchor lines looked slack, and the postures of the anglers slumped in their craft suggested things had not been going well.
      As we skirted the fleet, I happened to glance down at my finder screen where some good marks strongly suggested rockfish. They were suspended from 10 feet to 15 feet. Our frisky perch just might prove tempting to them.
      We had our live-lining outfits rigged and ready to go, so in no time, two lively baitfish were swimming down. Periodically boosting the perch into the rockfish danger zone, we slowly drifted along, pushed by a mild breeze.
       Within just a few minutes, Harrison had his first run. When he slowly tightened the line — circle hooks, remember — his rod arched over. The drag began its hiss as the mono poured out. It was a good fish and a solid hookup.     After several minutes of lively struggle, we had a 29-incher in the net, then buried in ice.
       Shortly after, I had a fat and healthy 25-inch striper.
      Those two fish, as it turned out, were indeed blessings as our finder screen went empty. The school had fled for parts unknown.
      We cruised likely looking areas for an hour or more with no results, then decided to head back to the ramp and to enjoy a late lunch. We had tempted the fish gods enough for one day.
Fish Finder
      Rockfish have been excellent across the Bay and especially on the eastern side. Rumor has it that striper schools lurking in the south have been pushed up into the mid-Bay by dolphins. More than a score of dolphin sightings have been reported already this summer as far up as the Patapsco River.
      Jigging for rickfish has been excellent, as has chumming and simply fishing cut bait. The mouths of the major tributaries on the Eastern Shore have proven to be the richer hunting grounds, with breaking schools showing up evenings. Trolling has been the choice of anglers wishing to cover more area for larger fish, and they are scoring with smaller baits now. Schools of bay anchovies, silversides, small perch and menhaden have been holding throughout the Bay, which explains the success of the soft, five-inch, plastic jigs.
     No spot or croaker yet. Crabbers are garnering meager results, though most southern locations are more active. We need a few more hot days and they’re sure to come.