Volume XVII, Issue 33 # August 13 - August 19, 2009

Fish Are Biting

The summer rockfish bite is peaking now. The Gum Thickets is red hot for both stripers and bluefish, but hungry fish can be found virtually everywhere they usually hang out. Big spot, perch and croaker are still in abundance over shell bottom at Belvedere, Snake Reef, Podickery, Dolly’s, Hackett’s, and Thomas Point. Crabbing has recently gone ballistic in the mid-Bay, with many reports of bushel limits in under an hour. It can’t get any better than this — but with a shallow water bite beginning to start up, it just might.

In Memory: Bill Burton 1926-2009

Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.


If ever there was a man who found a job he loved, it was Bill Burton. He once told me that getting paid for hunting and fishing sometimes felt too good to be true. He was afraid that someday he would wake up and it would all have been a dream. It did turn out to be a dream, but it was a real one, and it lasted over 60 years.

Telling me of his days as the outdoor editor of the Baltimore Evening Sun he said, “I could go wherever I wanted and do whatever I wanted, and the Sun would never question the cost. That was when a good story was the heart of journalism.”

Another memory he liked to relate about his early days was especially humorous. “We had a brewing company that advertised in the Sun, and the first Monday of every month they would deliver 30 cases of beer to my house. The only problem was I didn’t like beer, not at all. Except, of course, with crabs. It didn’t seem right to eat crabs without a beer. I gave the rest of it away.”

Writing for the Sunpapers for 32 years, then Bay Weekly and then also The Capital, Bill’s long career exemplified that of the rugged outdoors writer and spanned the golden years of journalism. We likely won’t see his kind again.

I dedicate this week’s column to Bill in hope it lives up to his standards.

• • • • •

Skinny Water Action

Burton would love it

Thumbing my reel, I sent my surface plug sailing low out over the water. It was first light on a flat-calm morning with a flood tide pushing up high on the shoreline rocks. Only a narrow rip marked the current flow over the long, submerged, erosion jetty angling out in front of me.

The lure splashed down on the far side of the rip, and I immediately started it swimming back. The cupped mouth of the surface plug chugged water into the air as I did my best to imitate the behavior of a suddenly panicked baitfish. My lure didn’t get far.

A mighty swirl engulfed the chugger, and the line came tight. Feeling the weight of a good fish, I hauled back and stuck. The water exploded. A rockfish came completely out, sideways.

Its eyes were bright with fury as, airborne, it shook its head and twisted its body, trying to rid itself of my plug stuck firmly in the corner of its jaw. My heart was thumping. This was the start of my very favorite time of year.

Shallow Water Fishing

The days are getting shorter. The sun is coming up almost an hour later than it did mid-June. This quickening of the days, while almost unnoticeable to us, imparts an urgent message to the rockfish: Cold times are coming, it’s time to feed up.

For a light-tackle angler there is another message: Shallow water action is starting.

The best bite often happens in the wee morning hours, when the first blush of a rising sun puts a low sheen on the water. When you can just begin to see the ripple of the waves over the surface is the best time to be on station.

The rockfish are schooling in smaller pods than they have been throughout the summertime. And in the early morning hours when the light is low, they go into the shallow water.

Haunting the shorelines, keying on structures like rock riprap, stone jetties, piers, points and the estuaries, both large and small, these predators are looking for white perch, small menhaden, spot, crabs and grass shrimp to satisfy their craving.

Noise discipline is of the greatest importance this time of year. Quietly approaching the area where you intend to fish is critical to success in skinny water. Sitting silently without casting for a good five minutes after arriving at a location will also make fishing better.

Along shorelines or in areas without concentrated structure, travel quietly while casting to likely areas. Using an electric trolling motor, poling your boat or drifting with the current are the best ways to move when in close. Avoid running your engine when possible.

Getting up in morning darkness is always a very uncomfortable proposition for me, but this time of year I find myself looking forward to it. The fishing can be that good.

© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.