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Volume 16, Issue 50 - December 11 - December 17, 2008
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A Winter’s Lament

Farewell Fishing

My heart is heavy. December’s long-range weather forecast put the final nail in the rough pine box containing my hopes for just a little more time on the water. It is not to be. Freezing temperatures are predicted throughout the rest of the month. That’s too brutal for me and my 15-foot skiff.

Last week, the possibility of a trip to fish eels for rockfish under the Bay Bridge was scrapped when I discovered that I had neglected to remove the drain plug from my boat. I had about three inches of solid ice in the bottom; it had a firm grip on the mooring lines as well as my fuel hose and battery connections.

Hoping against hope for one of those special Maryland 75-degree weeks I have put off putting up my skiff and gear. My rods are still poised in their ready racks inside my front door. (God bless my wife and her tolerance for my affliction.) My plug boxes, jig selections and all the accompanying terminal tackle are filling three tackle sacks sitting beside the rods — all in futility.

But I really have to count my blessings. It was a very solid fall season for stripers this year, right up until the November freeze closed down our shallow-water fishery. From August through October and a week beyond, we had remarkably productive angling for some very nice sized rockfish. While it wasn’t outstanding for any particular stretch of time, we caught well in skinny water for three straight months.

It is my favorite style of fishing, throwing top-water lures with both fly and light casting rods. Which of course is why I was so reluctant to give up the chase. But all good things come to an end … and this, unfortunately is the end. At least for me. With Christmas approaching and my holiday to-do list ominously long, I am finally putting my skiff up for the year.

The wind is howling outside my window, there are patches of light snow evident in the shade and the half cord of wood I hauled in a couple of weeks ago is down considerably. It looks like we might be in for a long cold spell. An article I read predicted the coldest winter of the decade. What happened to global warming?

The last few days I have been reading fishing tackle catalogs with a terrible longing, and, though I try to resist, I find myself ordering new lures that would have been dynamite two months ago. Whatever I buy will languish for more months before seeing action.

Fish Are Biting

Big-boat anglers are continuing to find some real trophy-sized stripers. Last week, two stripers over 50 pounds were checked into Angler’s Sport Center. Both fish, one 57 pounds and the other 54, were caught just south of the Bay Bridge on the Eastern Shore off of Matapeake State Park in 40 feet of water.

The bite is difficult, but those willing to brave the temperatures are boating some real lunkers. The problem is not finding fish; many of those returning with empty coolers report marking many big fish on their sonar. Getting them to eat has not been easy.

Winter can be an especially cruel time in the Tidewater for the small-boat angler. But I’m fairly certain we will get enough respite weather-wise sometime during the next couple of months to get out for a little pickerel fishing. The yellow perch run is not more than seven or eight weeks away, with the white perch run not far behind that. Hope springs eternal.

The striper season will be officially over on the Chesapeake December 31. Oceanside in Maryland, it is open year-round, and reports from Ocean City/Assateague have claimed large fish cruising the surf. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is going strong with good-sized stripers being taken there regularly — though it is as bitter cold there as it is here. The winter season this year is definitely reserved for the extra hardy.

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