Volume XVII, Issue 39 # September 24 - September 30, 2009

Fish Are Biting

Bad weather trashed the first half of September, but things have substantially improved. Breaking fish — blues, macs and rock — are active from Belvedere Shoals all the way down the Western Shore to south of Thomas Point. The Eastern Shore’s hotspot stretches from the southern tip of Poplar Island all the way across the mouth of the Eastern Bay. Breakers have also been reported at Love Point and up into the Chester. Live-lining continues to produce, and with the improved weather, plug casting is sure to be productive in the shallows. Spot and croaker remain in good numbers, and the perching is excellent, where the blues haven’t chased them away.

The Day It Rained Rockfish

Wet as we were, we celebrated all the way home

Launching an hour before sundown, we began the short run to some rocky, shallow water jetties that have occasionally produced good fall stripers. We’d gone fishless there twice within the last week, but my partner and I were still optimistic about our chances.

Until, just after we’d left the ramp, a brisk wind came out of nowhere. Harrison glanced back over his shoulder and gave me a doubting stare from his bow seat as the gusty air began to push up some chop.

“It’ll die down,” I assured him. “The marine forecast said calm winds.”

“What did it say about rain?” he asked looking to the west.

In that direction I saw the same thing he did, a section of dark clouds and what might have been rain falling in the distance.

“But I checked the weather radar just before we left,” I alibied, “and there wasn’t a storm cloud on the screen. I don’t know where the hell that came from. What direction is it moving?”

“Looks like it’s coming right at us,” he replied.

Harrison is my 20-year-old son, and though he seems to be mostly past the my parents don’t know anything phase of his youth, he still harbors some lingering doubts. Perhaps he had reason this time.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “If it starts to get close we’ll run for it. We aren’t going very far from the ramp.” That promise did not seem to provide him any comfort; he’d seen me come home soaked before.

The first jetty we stopped at was long and mostly submerged and had a nice rip forming from a strong outgoing tide. I eased up to within casting distance. The rain clouds were definitely headed our way now, but there were no rumblings of thunder, so I wasn’t too concerned. I didn’t mention to Harrison that there was no foul weather gear on board.

We both sailed our surface plugs out just past the rip line and began to chug them back. I saw a small splash behind my plug but got no hookup. “I just got a pass, throw more to your right,” I said as I prepared to cast again.

This time there was a major eruption of water as my plug splashed through the rip line. My rod arced down, bending almost to the corks, and I hissed to my son, “It’s a good one: Stay ready.” Harrison made his cast, then just grunted as a nice fish took his popper down in a spray of water. The drag on his reel started buzzing.

The tide was pushing us away from the jetty, and by the time we had managed our fish on board and iced them — two nice fat stripers, both over 22 inches — we had drifted well out of casting range. The rain cloud was almost upon us as I finally eased the skiff back up, dropped anchor and we threw into the rip again.

Within seconds we were both hooked up. Harrison was smiling now, his faith in me restored. I was grinning too. After brisk battles, we released both fish back over the side. It did not appear as if a limit was going to be a problem here.

Then the rain began to fall.

But it only accelerated the bite. Now it seemed to be raining rockfish. Our plugs were getting smashed as soon as they hit the water. One fish would knock a lure into the air, and two or three other fish would launch out of the water chasing it.

The downpour let up after 15 minutes or so, but the striper action continued. Thoroughly drenched and whooping with excitement, we caught and released fish after fish. It was phenomenal, the best day of the season.

Then, after almost an hour, the rockfish finally moved on. We thought briefly about trying to relocate them down the shoreline, but the light was failing and we could see another rain shower approaching. This one did not look quite as gentle as the last. Pulling anchor we ran for it, still wet but celebrating all the way home.

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