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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

Autumn’s feeding frenzy will fatten your chances

      I finally got my second keeper rockfish at about 11am, but only after releasing some dozen undersized schoolies and more than two dozen burly and uncooperative channel cats. The sun had already been blazing hot for some time. I was scorched and pooped as I headed back in for a shower, a sandwich and a nap.

That’s fishing’s Golden Rule

       As soon as I flipped the small Norfolk spot overboard with a thin 6/0 circle hook trailing from just in front of its dorsal fin, the rockfish tidbit twitched its way into the depths. The tidal current was barely starting to move along the bridge support as I fed out line from my baitcaster and tried to estimate how close to the bottom, 30 feet below, the frisky bait was approaching.

A sporting lifetime begins

       Having practiced with the colorful rod and reel he got for his birthday, Logan was finally in the bow of my skiff, targeting the water near a rock jetty. He tensed, then sent the small spinner bait sailing through the air.       Though the cast went a little wide, it still landed in a good area. He shifted the rod in his hand and began to crank the handle. But after only a few turns, the reel froze.

I get along with both, preferably together

      At one point in an earlier life, when living in Washington, D.C., I had a particularly personable black kitten. Guiness would go for long walks with us around the neighborhood, striding directly under his sworn protector, a friend’s large Belgian sheepdog. Their close relationship went on for over two years until we all eventually drifted apart and on to other things. While they were together, they were a memorable team.

Cold, oxygenated fresh water follows in the wake of murk and logs

But where have the bigger fish gone?

As the targets change, I’m learning how to adapt

I’ve had a wild ride using circle hooks this rockfish season. Allowing the fish’s movements to set the circle hook provided me excellent results baitfishing during the trophy season, if I didn’t count the absence of trophy-sized fish in my boat.             The fish I did catch — some agonizingly shy of the 35-inch limit — were invariably hooked in the mouth. I released them with no ill effects, if you ignore my disappointment.

Her luck was here then gone

            My second cast was intercepted, and the small rod arced hard over. Through the thin line I could feel the shakes of a fish with some definite weight, several ounces at least. The big perch were finally back in residence along the rocky shallows.

Take care of yourself and the fish

Temperatures flirting with triple digits mean difficult times on the Chesapeake, not only for anglers but also for the fish. The young and old are the most susceptible to heatstroke, but everyone needs to be aware of the danger, as it can be fatal.

Over 900 sightings this past year

The first time I fished in saltwater was a memorable experience. I had waded out from the shoreline with a spinning rod in one hand and a bag of squid in the other. Catching a small flounder within the first few minutes made me bolder until at last I was far from shore and chest-deep in the water.     Then I saw the big, dark, triangular fin angling toward me through the water. My blood froze as I tried to backpedal toward a now impossibly distant beach.