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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

Live-lining can beat chumming — without the stink

      Placing the hook just in front of the dorsal of a small perch, I lowered it into the water off the side of my skiff, drifting not far north of the Baltimore Light. My live bait jetted down, seeking the bottom 20 feet below. It never reached its destination. It was intercepted by a hungry 10-pound rockfish that was about to make my day.

It takes practice and adjustment, but they’re good for Bay rockfish

      My experience with circle hooks began some 20 years ago, when I took part in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources project studying mortality in rockfish caught with J versus circle hooks. All the fishers were chumming. In the control group using J hooks, we established that half of deep-hooked fish that were released died within two hours.

Doubtful at first, I’m a confirmed member of the circle-hook club

      Opening day of the second rockfish season, May 16, looked to be a pretty one. It was warm with calm wind, the sky nicely overcast and a fine mist as we motored out of Sandy Point Marina in my 17-foot skiff. It did turn out pretty — pretty wet, then very wet and pretty cold.       The bite made up for it all.

Good, but not quite good enough

      I had spent some five days on the water over the last couple of weeks, 30-plus long listless hours, waiting for this. My rod tip finally twitched, then twitched again. I eased my outfit from the rod holder just as the fish began to run. Perfect. Giving it a brief five count I put the reel in gear and, as the line came tight, I lifted my rod firmly. Big fish on.
You’ve got a hot date with a hungry trophy rockfish
      Calling the 2018 trophy rockfish season disappointing is understating the situation. At two weeks in, the four-week season has set a record low for keeper-sized fish boated.       By the time you read this column, all this bad news will be old news. We will be in the midst of a big-fish blitz unlike anything we’ve seen before. That’s my prediction, and I’m sticking to it.

We have to be ready to fish hard when the rockfish finally bite

      Big rockfish are still a no-show. Discouraged by the absence, the number of anglers has dwindled as well. Low water temperatures are the culprit blamed for this unusual paucity of big fish cruising the Bay proper. DNR fishing reports say most of the rockfish in the area are still high up in the tributaries awaiting the proper conditions to spawn.

Trophy rockfish big but few as ­season opens

      Slim Pickens was a noted Hollywood western character actor of the 1980s. Unfortunately, his name defines the results of the opening day of trophy rockfish season in Maryland. Hundreds of boats, thousands of anglers, a beautiful, sunny day, light winds, calm seas. Very few fish.

This year brings prime opportunity to catch a giant fish

      Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter …       Those words, sung long ago by the Beatles in their popular anthem of hope, Here Comes the Sun, couldn’t be more appropriate than right now. Warmer temperatures have arrived at last, and the trophy rockfish season opens Saturday, April 21. Alleluia!

Rockfish regulation clarification

      Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has withdrawn its proposed emergency rockfish regulation modifications for the 2018 May season, citing confusion caused by the proposed new J-hook requirements. That leaves the current regulations in effect until further notice.       My understanding is that to avoid that confusion, DNR will do three things:

It doesn’t matter what happens the rest of the day

      It was a tense moment. After a number of postponements for high winds, hail, rain and freezing temperatures, my son Harrison and I were fishing the Pocomoke River. Bundled up in layers of foul-weather clothes, our fingers already numb from the 30-degree air, we had finally met up with the stellar Eastern Shore guide Kevin Josenhans for our first sortie of the new season.