Lessons to Remember
Cold and rain have had me housebound and dreaming of last fishing season. Along with great memories, I learned a couple of new lessons.
My fishing partners and I experimented with different types of fishing lines during an extended chumming and live-lining rockfish bite in the mid-Bay. We fished often, up to four times per week, trying braid, monofilament and fluorocarbon lines.
Long ago I discovered that fluorocarbon leaders produced a better bite. Last season, I wanted to see how a completely fluorocarbon line compared to mono and braid. Over the course of our experiment, the outfits lined completely with fluoro caught more fish. The difference was especially remarkable as all of our terminal rigs, no matter which type of line, were set with 20- to 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leaders.
My surmise is that fish moving about the depths in search of something to eat are turned off by the clear sight of fishing lines in the area of the bait.
Pickerel and crappie have been the only reliable game in town the past few weeks, although on the few occasions when weather permitted some stalwarts jigged up undersized rockfish around the Bay Bridge.
The rods lined with monofilament came in second place; the outfits with braided lines were last. The water in the mid-Chesapeake was fairly clean, which I suspect may have had something to do with the easily noted differences in success of the less visible lines.
Lesson one: During the coming season, my fishing buddies and I will be using fluorocarbon on all our bait-fishing rigs.
I learned another lesson in pursuit of large white perch. While bottom fishing with bait, it is the specific bait that most often entices the bigger fish. Monster whites are suckers for soft and peeler crab. When lure fishing shallow water, a different dynamic is at work.
That factor is the eagerness of all the perch, no matter their size, to hit a particular lure. As is often the case, big perch mix with middling fish gathered around any piece of shallow water structure, whether piers, docks, stone jetties, downed trees or prominent rip raps.
If you’re throwing a spinner bait, spoon or pan fish-sized crank bait, the lesser fish will be all over your lures before the big guys get started. By the time you manage to get your artificial in close to a big whitey (11 inches or more) they’ve already wised up to the deception.
The key we found was using oversized lures, oversized for perch anyway. Quarter-ounce and sometimes larger spinner baits and crank baits and spoons one size larger than you think you should use (think number 13 Tony instead of the 12). These larger lures tend to weed out the smaller fish or cause them to miss the hook and give the bigger fish a chance to slam your bait.
It also gives you the opportunity for trying different techniques. When you feel a fish hit your oversized lure without hooking up, let it fall, briefly. Larger fish often cannot resist the opportunity to steal away an easy meal injured by another fish.
Lesson two: Big fish bite on big lures.
Don’t ignore unusual situations and fish concentrations when fishing for croaker, spot and perch. Last season I missed the beginning of a tremendous rockfish bite by ignoring one particular small fish concentration.
Drifting for perch over a shallow oyster bed at the mouth of one of my more favorite rivers, I was annoyed to find the water thick with undersized perch, croaker and spot, fish just five and six inches long. They swarmed my baits on every drift. I had to move to another area to find keepers.
Weeks later, rumor reported nice schools of rockfish haunting that particular river almost every evening until dark. By the time I picked up on the action and located the right area, the bite was on the wane.
Those stripers had been after the same concentrations of small perch and spot that had so tormented me and in exactly the same place. I should have anticipated that. You can be sure I will the next time.
Lesson three: Little fish draw big fish.