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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

Use the down-time to clean your gear

Today I put on long pants for the first time since last June. Normally this is not entirely a bad thing because chilly fall weather means that bigger rockfish will be in the shallow water I love to fish. But not right now. Around our neck of the woods the fishing is pretty much on hold, and it may take some time before it returns to normal.

When the fish bite, you gotta be there to catch them

First came Irene, then seven straight days of even greater deluge from Tropical Storm Lee. With so much forced inactivity, I was on the brink of angling despair. When the forecast suggested our first day of precipitation-free weather, I loaded my skiff.     Arriving at the ramp and launching at first light, I had no misconceptions about my chances. All the Bay’s tributaries had been swollen in flood stage for days.

With the editor’s husband on board, there was no leaving till I got him a fish

It was pitch dark when the last fish finally hit. Bill said, “Got him.” Then, even from my station in the stern, I could hear his drag sounding like a large, angry bumblebee. Line poured out of his reel as the rockfish swam hot and straight for the middle of the Bay.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

It was the day before Irene was due to arrive, and though I should have been home cleaning out the rain gutters, gathering supplies and checking the generator, I wasn’t. Friend George Yu, who has as little common sense as I do about these things, had met me at 5am, and instead of making hurricane preparations we were skimming down the Chesapeake over the calm, pre-storm waters in my small skiff.

They shouldn’t have been biting. But they were. And I was catching.

At so many levels I suspected the morning was going to be a waste of time. Plus, getting up at 5:30am, though always painful for me, is even more so when I’m not expecting to catch anything.     I was going to try plugging the shallows for rockfish. It’s my favorite kind of fishing but an end-of-September activity, not promising during a long August heat wave.

Let me start with Lance and Josh

I’ve spent innumerable hours hunting and fishing over the years, probably a good many more than any well-balanced man should have. My love of outdoor sport has always been more of a passion than a pastime, and I’ve had some great company with which to share it.

When you go fishing, you’ve got to be ready to adapt

As we drifted away from the pilings, my son lifted his rod tip to feel if the spot he was live-lining was still down deep. His tip sagged, then his rod bent over and line started to feed out from his drag as we pulled away with the current. “I’m hung up again,” he said. It was all that needed to be said, for it was the third time in the last half-hour that he’d gotten snagged in that location.
The tidal current was in a difficult phase. We were live-lining Norfolk spot for rockfish at the Bay Bridge, the water was moving fast, and my skiff was drifting as we swam baits deep along the bridge supports. At the helm, I had to avoid colliding with the concrete columns yet stay close enough to allow my partner in the bow, Randy Steck, to work his bait near the bottom of the structures.

Far sweeter than the ones I ate

The incoming tide had just started by the time I slowed my skiff at the Bay Bridge. Nervously, I hooked up a nine-inch spot on a 6/0 hook and eased up to one of the larger multiple pilings. It would take a big rockfish to eat this bait.

Channel cats give a good fight and good eating

Wife Deborah and I were enjoying a lazy afternoon fishing one of the Bay’s many small tributaries when it happened. I had just made a long cast to a downed tree that, I hoped, harbored more of the fat 10-inch perch that we had been gathering for a fish fry.