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Volume xviii, Issue 19 ~ May 13 to May 19, 2010

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An Old Adversary, Well Met

I’d seen this hard-fighting bluegill before

My first cast sailed out about 50 feet, and the small black popper plopped gently just off the shaded shoreline. Seconds ticked by as I held the small fly rod poised, the tip pointing straight at the distant bug and my line tensed in my left hand. I hoped mightily that I was not going to be disappointed. I had not fished this location for over a year.

An abrupt swirl, caused by the thick shoulders of a fish suddenly charging up through the water, engulfed the bug. Instinctively I lifted the tip of my rod, and the line came tight, real tight. My heart began to thump in simultaneous relief and celebration.

Feeling the hook, the fish tore up the shallows in a cascade of mud, weed and white water. The incensed hooligan then collected itself and shot away from the shore. The taut fly line vibrated as the fish used its broad side to put maximum strain on my slender, arcing rod. This guy intended to be difficult.

Line pulled relentlessly through my fingers as I yielded to the fish. I didn’t want to risk losing my first bluegill of the year. A four-pound-test tippet is not much insurance against a fish that pulls out of all proportion to its size.

The big bream slowed as it bored out into the depths. Then I felt my straining leader grate as the clever devil apparently plunged into some sunken debris. My first impulse was to horse it away from the structure, but luckily I came to my senses.

Slacking off the pressure, I kept just the slightest tension on the line for several long seconds until I felt the fish finally back out and swim free. Then I cinched it up, holding it away from its refuge as it started into another run. This time the brute circled my skiff, staying deep and at a distance.

I tried to lift the fish again and again, but the brawler refused to cooperate. I had to remind myself to be patient. I had been defeated more than once by underestimating the determination of these bantam roosters. Patience is imperative with light tackle and an obstinate adversary.

At long last, I started the fish toward the boat. I saw its thick olive back break water as it surfaced and flashed an ample flank. A fiery orange breast, bright blue throat and glowing vertical bands along its length indicated this one was in full spawning splendor, rank with testosterone and an attitude to match.

Despite some boat-side antics, I managed the husky fish onboard. Then came the surprise. I had tangled with this guy before; he was distinctly scarred by the missing edge of a gill flap.

I clearly remembered having a battle with this fish in exactly the same place last year. It was a combat reunion of sorts. After a quick picture of his good side, I was extra gentle in removing the hook and promptly easing my old adversary back into the water.

The indignant rooster hesitated just a second in my submerged hand. Then, with a sudden tail thrust that sent water splashing up my arm and into my face, it sped off to some unfinished business among the shoreline spawning beds. I grinned as I wiped myself dry. Old friends like that are hard to come by.

The hefty devil was probably over eight years old, elderly in bluegill years, but I had a strong suspicion I’d be seeing the recalcitrant character again. I didn’t believe he was through with me quite yet.

Fish Are Biting

The trophy rockfish season continues, but the constant wind is frustrating most attempts at enjoying the bite. Prior reports indicated an early striped bass spawn; however, it appears from more recent accounts that a goodly number of big, roe-laden females continue to arrive in the area. Current regulations allow harvest of these fish. But good sportsmanship and concern for the future dictates their careful release.

A 42-inch striper was caught and released by Coastal Conservation Association member Gene Hansen near Romancoke this past week. He got the big fish with a five-inch Bass Assassin cast on a light spin rod and 10-pound-test line, quite a feat.

The fishing for trophy rockfish overall has been quite good the past few weeks, but stories of a big, early May worm hatch are circulating. This is usually accompanied by a significant slow-down of the trolling bite.

Some nice croaker are being caught at Sandy Point and Matapeake, mostly in the evenings. A more reliable hardhead bite is being experienced at Point Lookout, the mouth of the Patuxent River and across the Bay at Crisfield and north to Hoopers and the Honga.

White perch have been encountered at the mouths of our tributaries from time to time, but for the most part the whities are difficult to locate.

In Season

Spring turkey for gobblers remains open through May 24.

Tournament Report

The seventh annual CCA Kent Narrows Fly Fishing and Light Tackle Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, June 5. Numerous anglers from Maryland and surrounding states are expected to join one of the most challenging and sporting events of the year. Entry fee is $35 until May 28; $40 thereafter. This year there will be a special kayak division. All participants are invited to a post-tournament pig roast at the Jetty Restaurant at Kent Narrows.

Contacts: Tony Friedrich: 202-744-5013, Ed Luccione: 410-829-5771; or Joe Cap: 410-310-8073.

The Breezy Point Marina Tournament May 8 was accompanied by gale force winds. Fifteen stalwart crews still managed to fish, and Gary Kaetzel triumphed with a striper just under 21 pounds. Not too shabby considering the conditions.

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