Volume XVII, Issue 41 # October 8 - October 14, 2009

Fish Are Biting

When the wind hasn’t been blowing, there has been a good rockfish bite from the Baltimore Light down to Sandy Point on the channel edges. The mouths of the Chester, Love Point and the Dumping Grounds as well as the mouth of the Choptank are also holding nice fish. Trolling and deep jigging are the most popular methods of hooking up right now. Shallow-water plugging has been as unreliable as the weather, but some persistent anglers are finding success. A few sea trout have been taken off of Breezy Point, and trolling spoons, hoses and bucktails between the Breezy Point Marina and the Gas Docks in 40 feet of water is catching 32-inch or better rockfish. There are also reports of Spanish and blues still hanging there in good numbers. Cold weather is near at hand; fish while you can.

The One that Almost Got Away

The harder they fall, the sweeter they taste

I have learned over the years that the Chesapeake’s weather rarely cooperates with my plans, especially when they have to do with fishing. The opposite, actually, is more likely to be the case.

So recently when a run of unusually calm weather began, I took full advantage. Every morning, conditions were just right: light winds, partly cloudy, mild temperatures. Evenings were just as good or better, and I was on the water, plugging the shallows at every opportunity.

The first couple of days I tangled only with a few schoolies, but I was patient. I knew that better-sized rock would soon be cruising back in to dine on the multitudes of baitfish now crowding down the shorelines.

Early the third morning, the bigger rockfish finally returned to my area. The first cast of the day drew a huge swirling pass, the second a solid hookup. Of course I was unprepared. My net, its telescoping handle unextended, had become thoroughly entangled with the zipper on my boat bag.

Predictably, by the time the net was finally free and ready, the striper had managed to get itself a bit of slack and shed my lure. No matter. Within a few minutes I was hooked up again with a fish at least equal to the rascal I lost. With both hands available, I soon had the striper bested, netted and buried in my cooler’s ice.

Working the area patiently, I caught and released a number of good fish of up to four or five pounds.

The Strike of the Day

Then a bruiser made my life more interesting. It started with a thrashing strike that created an enormous roil of water but didn’t result in a hookup.

My nerves were calm enough at that point in the day to be able to let the lure lie still. Then I gave it just a twitch. If I hadn’t been looking right at my plug, I might not have noticed the take.

Just a dimple appeared on the surface when the lure disappeared. I slowly lifted my rod tip, and when I felt resistance, I struck hard. With a clap of water, a heavy striper showed me its broad flank and took off on a run that put a significant bend in my rod.

Once it got out and away from the skiff, the bass began to circle back toward me. Cranking madly to keep tension on the line, I tried to redirect the approaching fish away from the boat. But this linesides was having none of that. As the determined fish passed beneath the hull, I had to plunge my rod tip into the water to keep the line from touching the boat bottom.

Then I realized that as the fish crossed under me, it had changed directions and angled back toward my engine. I had to plunge the rod tip even deeper. The line cleared the lower unit, but there was nothing I could do about the rear set anchor. The clever devil turned neatly across that anchor line.

Struggling to the stern of the boat, I awkwardly passed my rod under and around the thick anchor line just as the fish put on a burst of speed, and my outfit was almost pulled from my hands as I struggled to hold it.

When I finally regained my composure and control of my tackle, I found the fish had re-crossed under the boat again and my line was still passing beneath the hull. Every time I tried to move around to get my line out from under the hull, the rockfish would counter with a move in the other direction.

The standoff continued like that until, with a great deal of effort and with my rod continually pushed deep in the water, I finally worked the seven-pound fish all the way back, completely under the boat and, at last, into the net.

Later, on the run home, my arms still aching from the long and awkward fight, I had to admire the fish’s strategy. I had never been maneuvered into an under-the-hull battle as thoroughly as by that fish. I was very fortunate to come out on top in a battle to remember.

It was a good thing, too. That evening the weather began to blow up a cold nor’easter, and it looked as if it was going to be a long one.

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