Volume XI, Issue 17 ~ April 24 - 30, 2003

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Burton on the Bay | Chesapeake Outdoors | Sky Watch | Tidelog
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Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

A Game of Inches

As in all sports, success in fishing depends on capitalizing on your opportunities. And as in all sports, sometimes the margin separating success from failure can be measured in minute increments. On the days when you have many opportunities, your miscues are often glossed over, ignored or unacknowledged. Other days you can’t do anything right, and usually you end up on the bad end of confidence.

Sometimes you can prepare, work hard and execute well the entire game but still come up short. For instance, in basketball the last-second buzzer-beater that rattles around the rim for eternity, only to be spit out in defiance of the laws of gravity, can do you in. In football, one of the most infamous heartbreakers is the field goal attempt, with no time on the clock, that pings the upright. (Ask a Buffalo Bills fan about that one and you’ll witness a sea change in attitude.) In lacrosse, it’s the goal pipe that cruelly robs you of the glory. And in golf, well, I’m sure it’s a missed putt or some such thing, but I don’t have clue about that sport.

In fishing, it’s the big one that got away. We’ve all been there. It’s that gut-wrenching nausea that permeates your intestines, then stacks upon the multitudes of other would, could, should tales of woe. This sickness is immediately followed by deep-rooted depression that consumes you until after your first beer. Or next fish, whichever comes first.

Most times, losing a good fish can be attributable to operator error. Your knot fails, you reel against the drag or you let slack in the line. But sometimes the fish wins; it was the better creature that day, plain and simple. This was the case recently up on the Susquehanna Flats when the fish, a brute to be sure, bested one of my clients — even though the angler did everything by the book.

To set the scene, we’d already had decent success, a dozen or so rockfish ranging from three to 13 pounds. The lone blemish to that point happened first thing in the early morning when a massive strike erupted just behind the plug of this same angler. But since the fish never took the hook, that scenario doesn’t fit into this category. It gets filed away with similar near-miss fish stories. (I have plenty of them, too.)

Back to the story. After the fish took the soft plastic — a seven-inch chartreuse Bass Assassin — with a subtle strike, the game was on. Several line-peeling, drag-burning runs followed up by a fury of thumb-rattling head-shakes helped it spit the hook. In the aftermath, we knew it was a good fish, and we repeated that over the last hour, making sure to put the proper enunciation on the word good, drawing it out for miles. That mantra was followed by renewed conjecture about the size and weight of the first atomic boil of the day.

Therein lies the beauty. If you play the game, you know that fish won’t come to the boat easily. That’s part of the challenge. And when you lose, you can’t help but chuckle a curse, admire that fighting instinct and look forward to the next round.

Fish Are Biting
The first weekend of the spring trophy season is under our belt, and the word I get is that, all things considered, most anglers got their one rockfish over 28 inches. Waters above and below the Bay Bridges were a good choice, as were stand-bys such as Chesapeake Beach and the Gooses. White or chartreuse umbrella rigs and big bucktails dressed with Sassy Shad proved why it’s a traditional rig. Trolling your spread in and near the main channel at depths of 45 feet or better (but only setting lures in the first 20 or so feet of the water column) was preferred.

On the Flats, when it’s hot, it’s good fishing; when action is slow, it’s work to find the big ones.



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Last updated April 24, 2003 @ 2:57am