by C.D. Dollar
Ottos Fish Saves the Day
The Susquehanna Flats were strewn with boats laden with captains and mates trying their hand at hooking a large striper. Down south, the scene was even more insane; several captains told me it was a nightmare. Each person I spoke with said theyd lost multiple baits as a result of one yahoo or another who ran across their trolling lines.
Apparently, the mayhem was so out of hand that people were cursing on the VHF marine radio, prompting the Coast Guard to issue several warnings about proper use of the radio.
So afterward, when I heard the descriptions of the scene down the Bay, I felt a little better. Along with three men of the Hennigan-Olsen clan, we spent most of the day in search of clean water and tolerable water temperatures. Both were as scarce as a donut in South Beach, making for a long day on the boat.
As a backup plan, thanks to advice from Capt. Mark Galasso, Id arranged to get a whole herring for bait in case of just such a fishless scenario. Ten oclock turned into 3pm, and the call was made to dunk bait. There, I said it. Im not proud, but I did what was, other than return to the dock, the only viable option.
Besides, we were all accomplished fly anglers who had fished Montanas sweet waters for trout as well as Floridas Gulf Coast, so if they didnt mind, how could I? Unlike some fishermens tales of conquest and expertise, theirs were sprinkled with family trips and sinewy memories. Especially Otto, the patriarch.
Cut herring on circle hooks saved the trip. The reel screamed and Otto was in control, deftly handling a near 30-pound cow still green with roe. It was a good fight but swift enough to reduce any stress. Otto played it masterfully.
As the big fish burned line (in fact toasted my reels drag), I was met with quizzical looks when I emerged from beneath the gunwale with the craziest looking net the men had seen. It was a cradle net a product made by Loki Nets and lent to me by JP Williams and it is made especially for catch-and-release. This fish was its first.
As Otto brought his fish alongside, I scooped her up flat. Her entire body weight was evenly distributed and supported by the cradle. I never laid a hand on the fish except to remove the circle hook, which lay perfectly in the small corner of her massive maw.
Our relative success was a long time coming and due in large part to the help I got along the way.
Fish Are Biting
A good number of anglers who fought the mob scene for the opening of Marylands trophy spring rockfish season hit the docks with skunk on their hands. Been there; done that.
Capt. Karl Roscher avoided the crowds as much as possible, and it paid off. His motley crew aboard Hurricane boated two spring beauties: a 41- and a 39-incher. They trolled plugs and umbrella rigs between West River and Herring Bay.
Calling it the largest weekend warrior armada I have ever seen on the Bay, Capt. Jim Brincefield of the Jil Carrie out of Happy Harbor joined the mob, which he said would have tested the patience of Job. But he still put his clients on fish: six healthy stripers on Saturday and eight fish on Sunday. They fished below Deale, catching fish from 31 to 38 inches.