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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

If you want to catch fish, you can’t wait for a perfect conditions

Even as we headed out, the day already looked challenging. Wind predicted at eight knots was easily twice that, and my small skiff was rocking and rolling under overcast skies. Donning foul weather coats, we soldiered on, ignoring a chill spray blowing down the port side onto both of us.

Here’s how to make it work for you

Chumming has always been an excellent way to catch rockfish in the Chesapeake. It’s not particularly demanding in technique or equipment, so just about anyone with a boat who is willing to invest some time can consistently score some really nice fish with this method. As a bonus, it can be easily done with medium-weight spin or bait-casting tackle.

With only one flounder in the cooler, it’s a good thing we could count on it for four fillets

Feeling the undulations of the sandy bottom telegraph up my graphite casting rod, I kept a cautious thumb on the reel spool. Our day drifting live bull minnows for summer flounder was starting slow. My son Harrison, his girlfriend Jerica and I had hoped to score enough fish for a family dinner. We hadn’t yet risen to the challenge.

Sometimes stubborn hope pays off

Almost the whole of the week had been lost to high winds and rain. With the marine forecast calling for five-knot winds at dawn and only a 30 percent possibility of light, scattered showers, I rose early and was ready to go at 6am.     Winds were still gusting out of the northeast at over 20 knots, showing no signs of abatement. Then came the rain, not just the predicted light shower but a torrent.

So many variables are at play it can sometimes be baffling

We arrived at our fishing spot at 9am, two hours after the predicted low tide. Consultations with tide and current charts told us that at our location about a quarter-mile below the Bay Bridge, the incoming tide would just be starting. It ­wasn’t; the current was still going out.     Anchoring and expecting the change at any moment, we set out our chum bag and flipped our baits over the side. After an hour with no tidal change and no action, we headed farther south, reasoning that the outgoing tide would be starting earlier there. Again we were wrong.

Whenever you can

Everything conspired against my going fishing. When I had the time the weather went bad, high winds or rain, sometimes both. When weather was right, my schedule turned on me: guests from out of town, family gatherings and, of course, work.     When finally I got a break, it wasn’t until the afternoon that I could get away. The worst part of the fishing day is the high-sun, high-heat of the day from noon until at least 4pm. Then again, everyone knows that the best time to go fishing is whenever you can, so I did.

To experience our past, I had to travel to Argentina

“Seven at 11 o’clock,” I whispered. “They’re headed right for us.”     My son John tensed and hunched lower behind the foliage of the water blind. So did I. Seconds passed slowly as adrenaline seeped through our systems.     A group of ducks swung to our right to adjust to the wind direction, then cupped their wings to descend. They were about 20 yards away and just over our decoys when I hissed, “Take ’em.”

The modern rockfishing boat is a high-tech warship

My phone rang early. It was my friend Frank Tuma, calling to invite me on a last-minute trolling sortie in the Bay.     Just east of the Baltimore Light, we set out the side-planer boards.

Keep it simple to start

The thrill of catching a trophy rockfish leads to a second act in the kitchen and a third at the table, for rockfish are very good to eat.     It’s high season here in the heart of rockfish country, where Maryland recreational and commercial anglers catch more than four million pounds each season.     Having made my own share of that catch, I have experimented with any number of approaches and made a couple of basic discoveries on how to prepare this delicious fish.

Baitfishing by water and from shore

Mike Ebersberger has a strategy for big, early season stripers on the Chesapeake. Not a fan of trolling, he prefers baitfishing the rockfish trophy season.     His method is simple: “Find a place away from other boats, anchor up on the edge of the main Bay channel in 25 feet of water with a muddy or sandy bottom,” says the manager of Angler’s Sport Center. “Drop a couple big chunks of menhaden, the fresher the better, on two- or three-ounce sinkers. Wait for a big rock to come along and inhale one of them.”