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Articles by Dennis doyle

To catch in this heat, you’ve got to fish early or fish lucky

My alarm clock sounded at 4:30am. Shutting it off, I took a deep breath and laid my head back for just a second to collect my thoughts. If the cat hadn’t knocked its dish off the table downstairs two hours later, I probably would have slept on until noon.
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… A white perch will do. If you can’t catch either, God bless you.

Setting up just north of the Sandy Point Light in 40 feet of water, our chum bag was soaking deep on its weighted line, and we were waiting for the rockfish to start to eat.
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Biltong is a South African ­alternative to freezing

Over the last few years, I have generally kept only those rockfish that my family and I could immediately eat, either giving away or releasing any extras landed. This season, however, the bite has been so good for so long and the fish so delicious that my policy has changed.
    By trial and error, I’ve developed two favorite ways to preserve this great fish.
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It’s the dawn bite that pays off this time of year

July is here, and with it the heat waves that inevitably mark summer on the Chesapeake. Ninety-plus degrees with a blazing-hot sun will slow the fish. Even if it ­doesn’t, that sun can make being on the water after high noon uncomfortable if not unhealthy.
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Extremely powerful for short distances, rockfish run out fast

We waited patiently for the tide to turn. It took longer than the current charts predicted, but our wait was worthwhile. The boat swung a bit more earnestly at anchor. Then a rod tip began to dance.
    The first slight tickle turned into more pronounced tugs as something below mouthed the chunk of menhaden. I gently retrieved my rod from its holder, slipped off the clicker to reduce line resistance and lightly thumbed the spool.

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I hunted 14 species of game birds; a lion hunted me

When a herd of zebras loomed up in the sweep of our headlights, I began to believe I was in Africa.
    As we’d landed at Johannesburg Airport after dark and loaded up for the two-hour drive to our lodge at Kroonstad, those zebra were my first sight of the wild Africa I’d come for.
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Croaker in the cooler makes for good eating at the table

My young sons were doing their best to emulate my actions as we drifted bloodworms over a hard shell bottom in a gently moving tide that June evening. My one-ounce sinker sent a tic-tic-tic flicking up the line on my light casting outfit. The rod tip was twitching right in rhythm.
    Harrison’s rod suddenly arched. He struggled to keep the rod from being pulled over the side while avoiding the hard gunnel.

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You get twice the angling fun, catching two fish to keep one

The tiniest peck on my bait set me instantly alert. With my index finger curled under the reel seat and just touching my rod blank, I tensed to feel another bite. There was no mistaking the rascal’s next move. Abruptly my rod tip jerked down, and I set the hook.
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Checklist for a happy summer

Accidents happen on the water. Boats sink, unsinkable boats capsize, people fall overboard, vessels collide. The Chesapeake can become violent in an instant. During our hot summers, storm cells can form and travel down the Bay at high speed, sometimes giving little or no warning of their approach, especially near or after dark. They can have winds in excess of 70 knots.
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The fish are there

The plan was made in haste late in the evening. Get up early enough to catch a good moving tide, launch the skiff, bag a quick limit and be home by 10am. All seemed possible, as we had limited out in 20 minutes the afternoon before. We had a good idea the fish would still be on hand in a spot where we had been the only boat on the water.
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