Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
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Volume XVII, Issue 51 ~ December 17 - December 23, 2009

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Fish are Biting

Rockfish season is officially over, but white perch remain in season and abundant. They can be enticed to bite on bloodworms fished in 40 to 60 feet of water usually over shell bottom. Pickerel are the Number One sport fish in the upper tributaries these colder months, but yellow perch will start running in late January. Remember, there’s always something biting somewhere in the Tidewater.

In Season

Duck season re-opened December 15 and Canada goose December 17. Sea duck season remains open, and all waterfowl seasons (including snow goose) run through January 30. Morning dove reopens December 18 and runs through January 2. Muzzleloader season for deer opens December 19 and runs through January 2. Rabbit and squirrel seasons remain open and run through February 27. Details:

Salt Never Sleeps

It’s time for your winter cleanup

Some days it’s just too cold to fish, and this time of year there are going to be a lot of those days. But after the long fishing season we’ve just had, we need to clean up our tackle.

Many anglers just park their gear in the garage, basement or a handy closet over the winter and figure they will sort it out in the spring. This is a big mistake. Salt never sleeps.

Chesapeake Bay is a brackish estuary. This means that there is between .03 percent and 3.5 percent salt content in the water. During last season, every time we used our fishing tackle in Bay waters some parts of it got wet. The water eventually evaporated, but the salt in that water remained behind in the tackle, accumulating. The more you used your gear, the more salt it gathered.

All through the winter, unless it is neutralized or removed, that salt could be causing corrosion in nooks and crannies. Hiding in the absorbent feathers and bucktail hair of dressed lures, streamers and flies, settling into the remote crevices of reel seats, creeping into rod guides, around screws heads and into level-wind gearing, into pliers and knives, salt will, over time, corrode even the hardiest metals.

Also keep in mind that over the last few years the tackle industry stopped making stainless steel treble hooks. Saltwater lures are currently being furnished only with hooks that are plated or coated with anti-corrosive materials. Even better-quality bait hooks today are plated rather than stainless.

This means that if you sharpen a hook, the sharpening process removes the protective coating. Thus the hook will rust. If you drag your bait or bang a lure off rocks, the hooks can rust. If you get a toothy fish or if you use pliers to get a hook out of a fish’s mouth, these actions can breach the coatings so the hook will begin to rust. They will rust a lot sooner if they remain in contact with salt over winter, so rinse your lures and hooks.

The good news is that the coated hooks are generally a lot cheaper than the old stainless steel varieties. The solution to rust that is already started is to immediately replace the hook. Corrosion will not stop once it has started.

And rust is contagious. If one hook in a container starts to rust and remains in contact with other metal items, it will corrode them as well. Painted lure surfaces can become stained, often permanently.

Cloths and Lubricants

Cleaning and protecting all of your tackle should be the Number One priority for the next few months. Silicone, especially marine grade, is particularly good for all your rods, reels and lures. It can be lightly sprayed or applied with a cloth.

WD-40, probably the most widely used general lubricant, usually gets good results. But you have to be careful in its application. WD-40 was created by Norm Larson of the Rocket Chemical Company in 1953. It was originally intended as a penetrating rust inhibitor for rocket parts and is superb for that application.

However, it is solvent based (the exact formula still remains a secret), and therein lies the problem. Spraying it directly into reels or other enclosed mechanisms can result in the dilution or breakdown of their internal grease and heavy oil lubrication. The product can also soften some glues, plastics, vinyl and paints.

While WD-40 does contain some light machine oils, it is not a substitute for the proper lubrication of mechanisms with products intended for that specific purpose. It is, however, handy, inexpensive, a great rust preventative. I probably have a half-dozen cans around my place at any one time.

Winterizing your tackle during the off-season also allows you to do an inventory of just where your needs lie for the coming year. This is particularly advantageous this time of year because the after-Christmas sales at the various sport stores and mail order sporting goods suppliers can save you a lot of money.

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