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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

Trap is a great diversion when it’s too cold to fish

Rising early, I looked out the window to check the tree line. Stiff winds had kept us in for days, and I was eager to get back on the water and after the big ocean-run stripers arriving of late. I lit up as I saw that the skyline was not just still but dead-still.     We even had an overcast. What could be more perfect? Then I glanced at the outside temperature. Thirty-eight degrees was a showstopper. There are places to visit in near-freezing weather, but the Chesapeake in a small open boat is not one of them.

November’s fish have fattened in the ocean

I cast the wriggling spot close to the bridge piling, leaving the reel out of gear with my thumb lightly pressing on the spool. As the spot swam toward the bottom I could feel it taking line. It paused and meandered, unafraid, following the tidal current away from the concrete structure.

Every rockfish is good; now and again, one is extraordinary

When I planted the skiff’s Power Pole anchor on the remains of an old submerged jetty wall that snaked well over a hundred yards out from the shoreline, my face was numb from the chilled air and the fast run. My electronic finder said the water was four feet deep under the keel. But just off the rocks, it would read closer to seven. Not too much farther away, the bottom fell to 20 feet.

Sweet success takes tuning

Easing my skiff up near a Bay Bridge support, I launched the lively Norfolk spot toward the sweet spot where the water eddied behind the down-current side of the concrete pier. I thumbed the spool, directing the baitfish to just the right place, inches from the support.     Stopping the spool just as the bait touched down, I released tension as the spot righted itself and jetted toward the bottom. My light thumb contact with the turning spool monitored the baitfish’s progress.

If a rock won’t bite, maybe a bluefish will

Moe and I imagined a fantastic day for rockfish. We had done well the previous afternoon with limits of bright, healthy stripers 26 to 28 inches. Hoping the pods would remain close to those same Bay Bridge structures overnight, we were back on the water early the next morning.

Almost 100 years ago, peolpe were astounded to find such large fish

When Lester Trott, 95 years old this year, was born in Annapolis, the capital city had scarcely 9,000 residents.     Les and his family, which included two older brothers, lived for a time in Eastport on Duvall’s Cove (or Well’s Cove), swimming in the clear waters of Spa Creek and trapping muskrats to sell their hides for pocket money. They netted big eight-inch-plus blue crabs — called channel crabs because of their size — that had molted and were hiding in the thick grass growing in the shallows in front of their house.

Soft plastics have proved irresistible, with Bass Assassin the tastiest

This early morning I was prospecting for stripers beside a long bulkhead reinforced with large rock piled along the base. The water there was five or six feet deep, then dropped off gradually all the way to the 30-foot depths of the channel 100 yards away.

Catch some for now and some for later

It was well after low slack when the incoming tidal current finally began to push me upriver. A light, soft wind from the south drifted my skiff diagonally cross channel and made everything just perfect for what I intended.     September is an ideal time to gather a bunch of fat white perch, some to fry now, some to stock the freezer for the coming winter months. Acting on that principle, I dropped my baits to the bottom and felt the tic-tic-tic of the half-ounce sinker bouncing over the shell bottom 15 feet below.

Try roasting it on a Caja China

We’d had a great day on the water. The bite was good, and we had boated a gorgeous pair of fat stripers, one 27 inches and the other just over 30. It seemed a shame to reduce them to fillets, so I didn’t. Scaling the hefty fish, then eviscerating them and removing the gills, I laid their graceful forms aside and reached for my phone to borrow a friend’s Caja China (pronounced: ka-ha cheena).

To a North Sea fisherman, we’re in heaven

I coaxed the bow of my skiff in close to the Bay Bridge piling and shifted into neutral. The tide had slowed to a crawl, and the southerly breeze was still soft, so it was no problem holding our boat a half dozen feet off the down-current side of the piling.     My fishing partner in the bow, Richard Fraser, thumbed his reel into free spool and lofted a six-inch spot toward the back eddy. The baitfish hit the water about a foot from the pier and zoomed down toward the bottom some 30 feet below. It never made it.