What Line Catches More Fish?
The rod tip twitched, just a little and just once, but I caught the movement out of the corner of my eye.
“Hey Mo, you’ve got a bite,” I hissed, needlessly.
My friend’s hand had already moved to his reel and slipped off the clicker to reduce its resistance on the line. His thumb was on the spool, but he left the rod in its holder.
The rod tip twitched slightly again, then again. The line began to pull out, slowly at first, then more rapidly. Mo eased the rod from its holder, thumbing the spool lightly and continuing to let the fish run.
Chumming for rockfish has been excellent right up until last weekend when, apparently, the holiday fishing armadas and the 100-plus weather finally wore out the action. Trolling, however, remains excellent with fish in the mid-20 inches filling out limits around the entry point of most of the major tributaries in the mid-Bay, especially to the south.
Live-lining is coming on strong with lots of yearling spot showing up around the area. As everyone knows, rock are suckers for a small Norfolk.
Perch are increasingly available in good numbers and good sizes, especially over hard bottom.
Croaker remain frustratingly small above the Bridge, but down around the Honga, Crisfield, Chesapeake Beach and Solomons they are better sized and more numerous. Trolling at Breezy Point remains consistently good. Anglers finding small spot are doing just as well live-lining.
Spotted sea trout are setting the world on fire around Tangier Sound as Kevin Josenhans, one of the Bay’s better light tackle guides, is seeing the best season in 30 years out of Crisfield.
Crabbing has become increasingly difficult all over lately with a sudden influx of undersized crabs eating up baits and pushing the larger crabs out of the better areas, though the Eastern Shore is faring better.
Mo paused a long five count then threw the reel in gear and set the hook.
“Another rockfish for the fluro,” I noted as he began a long struggle with a striped bass well over 30 inches.
Three Lines, Six Weeks, 12 Trips
For the last six weeks, we had been conducting a casual experiment over a number of fishing trips. Two of the outfits we carried — six-and-a-half-foot, medium-heavy power casting rods rigged with Ambassadeur 5500 level-wind reels — were spooled with 20-pound braid. Two were spooled with 20-pound mono, and two with 20-pound fluorocarbon.
We had been chumming bite off of Hackett’s Bar, which had been excellent, allowing us to compare the productivity of the three types of line commonly used for this type of fishing for rockfish.
The rods spooled with the dark-green braid now sat unused in the rod holders on the center console. Despite the fact that all of the outfits were rigged with three feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, the rods carrying the braid had consistently produced fewer hits, especially during bright days, than those spooled with either mono or fluorocarbon lines.
Our methods were casual. We had to assume that the opaque quality of the dark-green braid was putting the stripers on guard even down in the 35- to 40-foot depths where our baits were presented. Yet this line was considerably thinner.
We noted some other interesting results: a difference in the number of hits on clear mono vs. the clear fluorocarbon — but only under slow current. With a swift tidal current, there was no significant difference in bites on the two types of lines. Both did well.
However, when the tides were nearing their highs or lows and the current slowed, fluorocarbon had a noticeable edge. And at slack tide, when the chumming bite is at its slowest and most difficult, the outfits spooled with fluro produced virtually 100 percent of our action.
Those differences would seem to indicate that when the fish could move about with little effort, not having to swim against significant water movement, they were more likely to become alarmed at the more visible line. Mono and fluorocarbon fishing lines look similar enough out of water, but there are noticeable differences underwater.
Sunlight can penetrate water to about 200 feet, but it bends as it enters because the refractive indexes (based on Snell’s Law) between air and water are different. The index for air is 1.0; water is 1.33. When that sunlight traveling underwater subsequently strikes a submerged, translucent material, it bends again, making that material more visible.
The refractive index of fluorocarbon is 1.42, which is 94 percent that of water. Mono is a distant second at 1.64, for 84 percent. Hence the fluorocarbon would tend to be considerably less obvious to rockfish.
That’s one reason why fluorocarbon leaders are so effective: They better conceal the immediate connection of the bait to the angler’s tackle. Apparently the visibility of the entire fishing line can have an effect on striped bass swimming in its proximity as well. It too can put fish on alert, making them more cautious in selecting which food to eat.
Our casual observations lacked scientific discipline. But over six weeks and a dozen or more fishing trips under remarkably similar conditions, we found fluorocarbon fishing line advantageous when chumming and fishing cut bait.