Volume XI, Issue 25 ~ June 19-25, 2003

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

In the Wolves’ Den

The chartreuse-and-white Clouser fly, heavily laden with iridescent Flashabou along its side, landed with a soft splash 70 feet away. After four fast tugs on the fly, bam! An impressive blowup just behind the fly got my blood pumping. I quickened the pace, then watched with despair when the stalker broke off its pursuit and faded into shadows of the eelgrass.

After 10 casts produced the same result, I switched to Joe Bruce’s Spoon Fly, one of the prettiest facsimiles of a baitfish you could imagine. Surely this would make the beast bite. Swirls and follows but no dice: The fish refused to commit.

My rule of 10 was in effect, so I tied on a slick epoxy fly, similar in size and color to the scrambling anchovies seeking refuge among the lush eelgrass on Poquoson Flats.

I cast to a bare sandy spot between two large clumps of grass. Using both hands. I retrieved the fly as fast as I could. Whack! A huge boil erupted as two projectiles torpedoed after it. A third enjoined the fray but peeled off without striking.

The houndfish, lurking just inside a slough, could clearly be seen chasing the flies. And so it went for more than three hours — 180 excitingly frustrating minutes. The sun lifted high in the midday sky in direct proportion to my frustration. I was boiling both inside and out, and the fish were getting the better of me.

These long, toothy critters, which look like gars but are members of the Atlantic needlefish clan, can be finicky enough on spin tackle. When they are really choosey, they’re down right infuriating on fly gear. What was wrong with these fish?

The day before, Dean Bieri, who shared with me his knowledge of this fishery, and I had guided a tandem of father-son fishermen to success using spinning rods. The hot baits were Hopkins and Krocadile spoons, but sub-surface lures such as Yo-Zuris also did the job. The two pair of anglers caught and released more than two dozen bruisers. Many fish were over 40 inches, including one 51-incher that weighed five pounds, which is hefty for a houndfish.

Houndfish come into the lower Bay every June. Hard fighters and acrobatic, they’ve quickly become one of my favorite Bay fish on light tackle. So much, in fact, I don’t much mind the five-hour haul to the York River to get after them.

Now I could try some creative imagery about how the thrill of the hunt was paramount, but you’d know that wouldn’t hold water. The fact was, since Dean brought one to hand on the fly a day earlier, I was consumed with trying to match him. It wasn’t to be, however. The closest I got was a fleeting 30-second thrill ride in which one wolf snatched my fly, streaked across the flats, then leapt wildly into the air, twisting its elongated snake of a body into absurd contortions. It spit the hook and howled in laughter. At least it was having fun.

Fish Are Biting
Chuck Foster and his son Weston spent Father’s Day fishing the grassbeds around Fox Island, where they boated some monster croaker. Closer to home, the hardheads abound. Off Tolley Point and the mouth of West River are just two of the numerous live bottoms holding plenty of these good-eating fish.

Chumming at The Hill, Gooses and off Love Point has produced keeper rockfish. Use of circle hooks is strongly encouraged. A smattering of bluefish have turned up north of Patuxent River, yet I’ve heard of decent numbers of weakfish only in Tangier Sound.

DNR reports that Don Lorden of Baltimore won first place in the 23rd annual Ocean City Shark Tournament and set an Atlantic Division state record thresher shark fishing east of Jackspot off Ocean City, Md. Using bluefish as bait, Lorden took over 21/2 hours to land the 613-pound fish.



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Last updated June 19, 2003 @ 3:22am