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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

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.

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.