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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

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.

No perch will do if spot’s around

A friend and two buddies started their rockfish expedition by catching four, rather large, (for live lining), eight- to nine-inch spot and about a dozen, perfectly sized, six-inch white perch.     Cruising to the Bay Bridge and starting with the big spot, they caught four nice stripers within 45 minutes. It took the rest of a long and frustrating day to manage the last two of their six-fish limit with perch as bait.1

One perch, one rockfish and two anglers

My perch measured about nine inches, which should have been too big for live-lining, but the others swimming in our Jerry-rigged live-well were the same size, maybe bigger. I lightly hooked it just in front of the dorsal with a sharp 5/0, bright-red, live-bait hook and gently sailed it toward the bridge pilings.

Nobody’s the loser when perch is on the table

We were horribly late. The informal perch tournament had started promptly at 10am, but it was closer to 11 before our boat finally joined the fray. Easing up to the first stop on the planned search pattern, Roger Sexhauer and I made quick casts to within inches of some ancient pilings just off the rocky shoreline while Mike Ebersberger, our captain, set a small anchor.

They’re the best fish around, and this year they’re about the only fish around

The perch I’d hooked stayed deep, which is always a good sign. Big whites (which are mostly black) are reluctant to approach the surface in a battle. The longer it takes to get a glimpse of a whitey on the end of your line, the bigger it usually is. The scrapper I had on was giving all the signs of being a good one.

Hopping Scum Frogs over lily pads for bass and bluegill

We eased the canoe quietly up to within comfortable fly-casting distance of the shaded shoreline. A sparse blanket of fallen petals and pollen covered most of the water’s surface along this wooded edge. But I hoped the bluegills holding there could tell the difference between floating foliage and a tasty beetle.

How to catch early summer rockfish

This is turning out to be a difficult striped bass season. Dirty water coming down the Susquehanna River and into the Chesapeake has sent resident mid-Bay fish fleeing to cleaner currents and deeper water. Only over the last two weeks is the water clearing and the fish returning.

And the best lure for catching them

The sun was high in the sky when I arrived at my fishing hole. Easing my skiff up to the shoreline on my electric motor, I put a little extra sunscreen on my face and arms while the water settled. The day looked to be a hot one.     A strong flood lapped high on the rock riprap along this likely looking stretch of white perch territory.

The last jewel, white perch, returning to the shallows

Just as horse racing has its Triple Crown, with Maryland’s Preakness its second jewel, the Chesapeake has its own Triple Crown: a gourmet celebration of the three tastiest seafoods the Bay has to offer.     This year two of our three savories — the rockfish and the blue crab — have already resumed presence around the Bay. The third, white perch, had yet to return to their traditional summertime residences.