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Surely the Next Cast …

Don’t set your watch by a fisherman

Longtime fishing buddies (from left) Dennis Doyle, Bill Doyle and Randy Steck.
     We had timed our launch to take advantage of the tidal current change. As it usually takes about an hour after the scheduled low for the current to gradually stop, then another hour for the incoming current to become noticeable, we intended to exploit that two-hour period of slower water. That made our launch time about 8am for targeting the Bay Bridge.
     We were live-lining and hoped that those mild currents would allow our small spot baitfish to swim to the 25-foot depths of the bridge supports. Generally in those conditions, rockfish will be holding anywhere from about 10 feet down all the way to the bottom, the largest fish being the deepest. 
     My oldest sporting buddies, Randy Steck and my younger brother Bill, were with me. We have hunted and fished together for more than 50 years, but we hadn’t fished together for some time.
     Wanting to get them into good rockfish promptly, we started off the Eastern Shore, where in the past I have encountered the biggest fish. We began our drifts with high expectations. But when one pier after another proved empty, I had to rethink my strategy. 
     Switching to the western side immediately produced some fish to take our bait. But only one of the several we boated was a keeper, and our supply of spot was dwindling.
     Holding a council of desperation, we decided on a detour to find white perch. It was past noon, and we’d planned to be off the water by 1pm. If we were going to score well on any species, it would be the perch.
     The tide was now at full flood, and there was still cloud cover, ideal for perch to be holding among the shoreline jetties and bulkheads.
     Our first area proved fruitful. We were catching fish, and as we had rearmed ourselves with ultra-light outfits, it was exciting. We had decided that anything obviously short of 10 inches didn’t get iced. Starting out with lots of throwbacks, we found that as our casting improved so did the size of the perch. 
     Larger perch were holding within a foot or so of the bulkheads and jetty edges. Presenting a lure close to that structure almost guaranteed a fish in the 10-to-11-inch range. Then, as we were celebrating one of the black-backs Randy had landed that was just a hair under 12 inches, I glanced at my watch. It was suddenly 4pm. With a remarkable number of big perch in the cooler, we stowed our rods.
     But before heading home, we first, had to try at a couple of piers back at the Bay Bridge. We used up the last of our live spot without success. No rockfish for us.
     Then, as we got up on plane to head for the ramp, my brother Bill noticed the birds. They were 200 yards away and screaming over breaking fish. Off we went after them.
     Our only ready outfits were the perch rods, so we tossed quarter-ounce spinner baits into the melee of rockfish, some of them big. In an intense effort, we put two keepers in the boat, released a half-dozen shorties and lost a couple of heartbreakers. 
     It was around 7pm by the time we got our catch cleaned and our gear stowed. As calls were made to our families to announce our pending arrivals and apologize for our extreme tardiness, we broke out laughing. This was how most of our adventures over the years have ended.