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Earth’s shadow blots out this week’s full moon

With sunrise now after 7am, perhaps you’ve seen an exceptionally bright light in the south before dawn? Looking up, did you see the constellation Orion? That’s Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens, known as the Dog Star for its place amid Canis Major. Sirius rises around 2am in the east-southeast. Close to the horizon, it pulses a dazzling rainbow of colors, its light refracted by earth’s atmosphere like that from a prism. Closer to daybreak, when Sirius is high in the south, its light cuts through less of our atmosphere and appears a brilliant, cold white. As if Sirius didn’t stand out from its brightness alone, the three belt stars of Orion point straight down to the Dog Star.
    Perhaps, though, you’re looking due east in the hour before sunrise. In that case you’re seeing Jupiter, which outshines even Sirius. The giant planet rises around 3am, and by 6am it is high in the east. Below Jupiter is the constellation Leo with its upper body looking like an inversed question mark with Regulus at the bottom.
    You’ll want to get up before dawn Wednesday to catch the total lunar eclipse of the full, Hunter’s Moon. An eclipse of the moon only occurs during full moon, when it is aligned just so with the earth and sun, which casts earth’s shadow over the lunar surface. The process begins after 4am as the moon grows darker under the outer, penumbral, shadow. A little after 5am, the full, umbral, shadow begins to take a growing bite from the moon’s left edge until it is completely over-shadowed by 6:30. Mid-eclipse is at 6:54, after which point the rising sun breaks the spell.
    At the other side of darkness, Mars and Saturn appear at sunset. Saturn is fast on the heels of the sun, low in the southwest at dusk. Night by night the ringed planet is sinking lower and inching closer to the sun until it disappears around month’s end. Mars trails Saturn by roughly 20 degrees. Normally its red hue makes it easy to spot, but you may think you’re seeing double, as Mars is less than five degrees above another red light, Antares, the heart of Scorpius, whose name means rival of Mars. Over the coming weeks Mars creeps higher while the scorpion sets from view for winter.

You’ll need them to get rid of ­creeping Charley and clover

Fall is the best time to eradicate clover and creeping Charley from your lawn and garden. Both of these broadleaf weeds can be controlled by spraying with Weed-B-Gone, Trimec or Speedzone. Apply at the rate of two tablespoons per gallon of water as a light spray on the foliage. Apply only enough spray to wet the foliage. 
    Take care to avoid dripping on the soil. These sprays are phenoxy compounds that can be absorbed through the roots of desirable plants, such as trees and shrubs, causing twisting and curling of leaves next spring. 
    Apply these sprays only on actively growing plants. They are not effective on plants stressed by drought. In drought, thoroughly irrigate the area at least 48 hours before treating with the herbicides. Apply in the early morning hours when the cells of the plants are turgid.
    Foliage absorbs the chemicals in a couple of hours. Keep pets and children away from the treated area for at least 24 hours. Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and use low pressure to avoid drift. Do not apply spray when the wind is blowing. 
    In areas of heavy infestation, a second application may be necessary. The problem area is most likely infested with seeds of these broadleaf weeds, so anticipate the growth of young seedlings next spring. Eradication cannot be done in one year due to the weeds seeds accumulated on the ground.
    To prevent spring seedlings from becoming well established, set the cutting height of your lawnmower as high as possible so that the grass shades out the young weeds.
    Both clover and creeping Charley are difficult weeds to control. It generally takes three years of persistent fall treatment to eradicate them. 
    Where the clover dies, you may notice that emerging grass blades are greener than in other areas of your lawn. This is because clover fixes atmospheric nitrogen that is released into the soil after the plants die and decompose. Not creeping Charley; it’s just a nuisance.


Mulching With Leaves

Q    After a good rain, I raked leaves off my flower garden. The layer underneath was totally dry in many places, and when the rake passed over the ground, it gave off a sound as if it were hollow underneath. The dry old mulch appeared to have lots of graying in it. What should I do?

–Vicki Marsh, Deale

A    Dry leaves are hydrophobic, meaning difficult to wet. Add about two tablespoons of dish detergent to a watering can and sprinkle the solution over the dry leaves and gray layer beneath. After they seem wet, sprinkle additional water over them and incorporate all into the soil by spading or tilling. The gray matter is most likely actenomyces that will decompose the leaf residue once wet and active.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

It takes a full palette to size up circumstances correctly

When surface-plugging for rockfish, I like to have at least two rods ready and rigged with contrasting colored lures so I can switch back and forth without interruption. This way I can immediately cast back to the spot of a missed strike with a different color, giving the fish two different looks.
    Over the years, my box of poppers has expanded to hold about 25 lures of at least a dozen different colors. Over many seasons, each lure has at one time or another been a special producer.
    As a general rule when fishing shallow (less than six feet) top water, almost any color floating lure can induce a fish to strike — when fish are there. Once you’ve established the presence of stripers willing to strike, you will also notice a color preference.
    You see this truth clearly when fishing with a partner offering a different color than yours. One of you will catch more than the other. If the low man switches to the more successful color, that difference will be greatly reduced.
    About four seasons ago, we rarely took a fish over 23 inches that wasn’t caught by one particular lure. That year’s favorite sported an iridescent green-and-black back, flashing gold sides and a bright orange belly. That one was the giant killer. Other lures may have taken more fish overall, but all the big ones fell to Mr. Orange Belly.
    Another year, all-black was the top dog for catching big aggressive rockfish. I always switch to black under poor light and heavy overcasts. That season, black was the best color by far under every condition. Last year, white was the most productive. This year has yet to be determined.
    You can guess forever about why the preferences change year to year or even day to day. It’s one of the mysteries of angling.

Color Is a Changing Phenomenon
    A menhaden doesn’t display the same colors dead or even freshly out of the water as it does when it is cruising with its brethren along a rocky shoreline. Often young ones flash silver, while older, bigger bunker will have a golden hue. A live eel free swimming shows different shades of lavender, not the black we expect eels to be.
    White perch are generally light or silver colored, especially when swimming around lightly colored bottoms. They can also take on a much darker, virtually black, appearance when they are over a dark bottom or ensconced among weed beds or downed trees.
    Those aren’t the only baitfish a successful fisher has to emulate. If the stripers are keying on silversides, they will be looking for a different color than when they’ve been munching on bay anchovies. Yearling mud shad will sport a much different look and shade than a peanut bunker. Yellow perch are much more colorful than white perch. I have caught rockfish stuffed fat with jet black mad toms (baby catfish).
    Rockfish also love blue crabs, soft ones when they can find them though they’ll eat small hard crabs as well.
    All of these prey species are different colors, and these colors alone can trigger strikes under the right conditions.
    Your lure doesn’t have to emulate the exact item the rockfish are eating. If the color is close to the one the fish are expecting to see, they will attack.

Testing the Waters
    Faced with a full color palette, I went right to basics starting with an all-black Smack-It Jr. on one rig and a plain all-white variation on my second outfit.
    My partner had tied on a silver plug with black details that suggested a more realistic baitfish.
    As we moved along the calm shoreline, his lure drew an uncertain swirl behind it. As he threw back into the same area, I shamelessly dropped my all-black popper just a dozen feet upcurrent of his.
    Apparently my offering was closer to what the fish wanted. I was soon fast to a fat and explosive striped bass that turned the water to froth.

How to freeze your rockfish

We baked a whole, handsomely fat, 34-inch rockfish in a Cuban barbeque box (lacajachina.com) for my middle son’s college graduation. It was delicious. The remarkable thing about that treat was not that the dish came out so well (the barbeque box is simple to use) but that the fish had been stored in the freezer since the middle of last season. It tasted almost fresh-caught.
    Years past, I experienced much disappointment in freezing fish for longer than one or two months. Fish frozen for longer sometimes resulted in strong-tasting and stronger-smelling dinners.
    The difference is that vacuum-packing machines are much better at eliminating all air from the package; contemporary plastic bags also seem to be more durable and puncture-proof. Allowing any air to reach the fish during storage is a sure way to ruin its table quality.
    Preparing whole fish for freezing is a fairly simple affair. The fish should immediately be immersed in ice (but not ice water) after catching. As soon as practicable, it should be thoroughly scaled, eviscerated and the gills and all traces of organs removed. This includes scraping the backbone and inside of the head of all dark meat.
    The fish should then be thoroughly rinsed and dried. Finally rub it, inside and out, with olive oil. The coating of oil further protects the fish from air and allows it to slide into the ­vacuum bags without difficulty.
    Be careful to prevent the many sharp spines of the fish’s fins from puncturing the plastic bag during processing and storage. If the fish is moved at all within the freezer to access other foods, it should be
re-examined for vacuum failure.
    Now vacuum pack and store each fish individually in the freezer — not stacked together — to minimize freezing time.
    Freezing rockfish fillets is even simpler. Again, ice the fish immediately after catching. Fillet and skin as soon as possible. Remove the dark lateral line by incising along each side at a sharp angle, pulling that meat away and discarding. The dark meat is strong tasting, and that taste only gets stronger and migrates to the rest of the fillet over time in storage. The dark meat section is also where toxins tend to concentrate.
    Using the vacuum packer as before, process the flat fillets in quantities that are convenient to use all at once.
    If you don’t have a vacuum machine, fillets can be frozen almost as effectively by placing the pieces in appropriately sized heavy-duty zipper-locking freezer bags and adding water. Wrap the bags tightly against the fish, force out all the air and as much water as possible, seal and place them individually in the freezer. The added water insures that no air will reach the fish during storage.
    Maintaining a cold — at least zero-degree — freezer is also essential to long-term storage. Above that, bacteria can emerge and eventually cause unwanted flavor changes. Commercial fish storage is generally maintained at minus-20 degrees, but a household fridge may not be able to reach that temperature. Use an aftermarket temperature gauge and the lowest possible freezer setting for best results.
    I routinely can keep vacuum-packaged whole and filleted fish up to a year and water-filled frozen fillets up to six months without risking culinary disappointment. However, if the integrity of the vacuum sealing has been compromised during storage, there are only two remedies: thaw and cook the fish immediately or redo the packaging. Attempts to repair holes in the bags with tape or glue inevitably result in poor table quality.

Flowers, Vegetables and Grasses for Fall and Winter

Growing plants keeps your soil alive and well all year long.
    In the flower garden, plant annuals and perennials close together. The tops of perennials die back to the ground in fall and winter, but perennial roots stay active as long as soil temperatures are above freezing.
    Add cold-weather annuals such as pansies, sweet William, ornamental cabbage and kale to fading perennials to give life and color to the winter garden. They will also absorb nutrients already in the soil.
    Pansies provide a wide range of color and will bloom off and on all winter. Come spring, they will produce an abundance of blooms in late April lasting through May. Sweet William is bi-annual. If you plant it this fall, it will flower well in the coming spring and even more profusely in the spring of 2016.
    Caution: Rabbits love pansies. If you have rabbits, scatter mothballs under the leaves. If you have children, wrap the mothballs loosely in aluminum foil and cover them with a thin layer of mulch.
    In the vegetable garden, broccoli, cabbage and collard greens, kale and turnips are colorful, hardy and harvestable through much of winter.
    A green alternative is a soil-covering crop of winter rye. Winter rye grows a lush green carpet of grass. The perfect scavenger crop, rye grows roots deep in the soil, absorbing nutrients not utilized by the previous plants and protecting groundwater. On the surface, rye prevents your soil from being washed away by heavy rains or winds.

Bulbs Planted Now Bring Spring Rewards

    Bulbs planted in October and November go to work now. In fall, they root quickly and absorb residual nutrients from the soil. In spring, they bring the garden to life.
    Plant tulip, narcissus or daffodils, hyacinths and crocus bulbs in October and November for April bursts of color.
    Plant garlic and long-day onions for spring and summer harvest.

Flowering Bulbs
    For flowering bulbs, dig deep. Excavate an area 12 inches deep and at least 12 inches wide. Add a four-inch-thick layer of equal parts by volume soil from your hole and good compost. Do not put sand under the bulbs.
    Place bulbs at least one inch apart on top of the blended soil with the flat side of the bulb against the wall of the hole. Planting this way will direct leaves to bend outward, giving the planting a more appealing appearance. Place a single bulb in the center. Cover the bulbs with eight inches of blended topsoil and compost.
    Don’t use a bulb-planting tool, which makes holes too shallow and compresses the soil along the walls of the hole, especially if the soil contains large amounts of silt or clay.
    Blend equal parts compost and topsoil and layer the soil four inches thick across the bottom of the hole before planting. Position the bulbs upright for uniform blooming in the first year. The compost will supply all of the nutrient needs through the first growing season.
    Narcissus … daffodils … or jonquils. Whatever you call them, these spring plants are perennials in Southern Maryland gladly blooming year after year. Plant now and you’ll have yellow blooms bursting through melting snow.
    Plant your daffodils deep and you can also plant hyacinth, crocus and more seasonal flowers above the daffodil bulbs without fear of damaging the bulbs with digging tools.
    Tulips are often an annual crop in Chesapeake gardens, as our warm springs disagree with them.
    Unlike daffodils and hyacinths, tulips produce a new mother bulb each year, plus possibly a few daughter bulbs. Because our springs are short — before long, hot summers — tulip foliage does not last long enough to build a new bulb equal to or larger than the original. The Netherlands and more northern states like Michigan enjoy optimum tulip climate: cool springs that last for several weeks.
    To get your tulips to flower more than one year, plant them by mid-October in a well-drained location in full sun. Early planting assures that the bulbs develop a large root system before soils cool with the arrival of winter.
    If you want your tulip bed to last many years, choose yellow tulips, which, for some unknown reason, perform better and last longer than red, white or pink cultivars.
    Caution: Deer love tulips; don’t plant them if deer visit.

Onions and Garlic
    Garlic bulbs can be planted from early September until mid November. The plants need time to produce visible foliage before the ground freezes.
    Select a location in your garden that will receive maximum sunlight. Garlic planted in partial shade will not produce fully developed bulbs.
    Garlic grows best in well-drained soils rich in organic matter. To meet the organic requirements, spread about two inches of compost over the soil and spade or rototill as deeply as possible.
    A soil test will tell you your pH and how to achieve the garlic ideal of near 6.5.
    Plant each clove, pointed side up, in holes four inches deep and four inches apart in rows 10 inches apart.
    Just before the ground freezes in December, mulch with a one-inch layer of compost.
    Next spring, water thoroughly at least twice weekly. In May, cut the flowers just below the swollen part of the stem as they form so as to maximize the size of the bulbs.
    Just as soon as the leaves start to turn brown in early summer, dig using a forked garden spade to minimize damage to the bulbs.
    The short days of fall and winter are beloved by short-day onions. A short-day onion variety will form a bulb only when the days are short. Begin planting any time now so the plants become well established before the ground freezes. To give them the organic matter they want, amend your soil with an inch or two of compost prior to planting.
    After the ground freezes in winter, mulch the onions again one to two inches deep to help prevent the frost from pushing the onions out of the ground with repeated freezing and thawing.
    As soon as the plants resume growth in the spring, apply a water-soluble fertilizer to stimulate early active growth.
    Harvest begins in June.

Catch Phytophtora quick and save the plant

A Bay Weekly reader recently complained that her magnificent large rhododendron was dying after it had produced a super abundance of blooms this spring. After examining the plants closely, I knew that the cause of death was Phytophtora cactorum. This disease is often the primary cause for rhododendron dieback. It kills the plants starting at the ends of the branches, and works its way down the stem. If you can prune out the dying branches as soon as you spot it, you can often salvage the plant.
    To identify the disease, look for chestnut-brown sunken cankers surrounding the stem immediately beneath the wilting flower. The stem just beneath the wilted flower or seed head will be green, but the lower part of that stem, where it had grown from the previous year’s stem, will be chestnut brown. You will note that the diseased stem originated near the stem that flowered the previous year.
    The disease-causing fungi entered the stem as the old flowers wilted and dropped. Sometimes one or two branches are first affected. When this occurs, prune away the branch as close to the main stem as possible, sterilizing your pruners with rubbing alcohol between each cut. To prevent the disease from spreading, spray the plants with a mild fungicide such as Phaltan or Captan as the blossoms begin to wilt. However, fungicides are only a temporary protection.  
    The occurrence of this disease has been associated with low levels of magnesium in the soil. If you have rhododendrons that exhibit any signs of dieback, I strongly recommend you have the soil tested.
    When taking soil samples from around shallow-rooted plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons, only sample from the upper three inches of soil. Ninety percent of roots from shallow-rooted species grow in that layer. Soil samples should be taken between the drip line of the branches and the trunk of the plant. Scrape away mulch before sampling.
    Where this disease has been a problem, I recommend applying Epsom salts at the rate of one-half cup dissolved in two gallons of water and applied over 100 square feet. Apply every spring just before the plants start blooming.
    To my knowledge, there are no rhododendron varieties that are immune to this disease. The best protection is frequent inspection of the new stems, pruning out diseased branches using sterile pruners, spraying infected plants as the blossoms are wilting and falling and proper nutrition following soil testing by a reputable lab such as A&L Eastern Agricultural Lab.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

The equinox ushers in fall

Week’s end finds the waning crescent moon in the company of Jupiter before dawn. Around 6am Friday morning, look for the moon high in the east with Jupiter to its lower left. The same time Saturday the moon shines just six degrees from Old Jove. Then Sunday, the now razor-thin crescent is well below Jupiter, while the first-magnitude star  Regulus, is just six degrees away.
    While you should have no trouble spotting the waning crescent moon and Jupiter in the east before dawn, Venus is a trickier target. This Morning Star rises less than an hour before the sun, and that window of visibility shrinks by about a minute each day.  At best Venus is only 10 degrees above the horizon before sunrise, so you may need to scour the eastern skyline with binoculars to pinpoint Venus’ otherwise dazzling glow.
    This time of year before dawn offers the best chance to spot the eerie zodiacal light also called false dawn. You need dark skies away from any urban glare to see the zodiacal light, which glows like milky pyramid of light rising from the horizon an hour or two before actual dawn.
    Unlike true dawn, the zodiacal light is a pale, ghostly glow devoid of the rosy tint from the coming sun, which is caused by light entering earth’s atmosphere. The zodiacal light is actually sunlight reflecting off countless bits of dust and detritus within our solar system that orbit the sun along the same path as the planets. This time of year the ecliptic — the path of the sun, moon and planets — stands nearly straight up with respect to the eastern horizon before dawn.
    At the other end of darkness, Mars and Saturn shine low in the southwest in the early evening. Of the two, Saturn is slightly brighter and is farther west, setting around 9:30pm. Mars isn’t far behind, setting shortly after 10. But while the ringed planet is weeks away from disappearing amid the glare of the sun, Mars remains a fixture in our early evening skies for weeks to come.
    A clear view to the west-southwest immediately following sunset may reveal Mercury burried in the horizon. Binoculars will help, but don’t confuse it with nearby Spica, which is only a couple degrees away through the weekend. They are so close that both will appear in the same field of view using binoculars or a telescope.
    Monday at 10:29pm EDT, the sun is poised directly above the equator somewhere in the vicinity of New Guinea. On that day or the following, the sun rises due east and sets due west, dividing the day between near-equal amounts of daylight and darkness for everyone around the globe. For the 90 percent of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, this equinox marks the beginning of autumn.
    Because of the earth’s 231⁄2-degree tilted axis, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres each receive more direct sunlight and warmth than the other for half the year. Twice a year, earth’s tilted axis and its orbit around the sun come together just so that the amount of light and dark are equal around the globe. Hereafter our time in the sun will grow shorter each day as the sun creeps ever southward of due east until reaching winter solstice in late December, its farthest point south in our skies.

The best time to fish is when they’re biting

The forecast called for rain, but the weather people had proven so inaccurate the last few weeks that we gave the pronouncement little notice. We promised that if Saturday morning broke with anything close to moderate air we were heading out, as we did.
    My buddy and I had also decided to leave the rockfish to the weekenders. A few barely legal stripers were not what we were looking for. We yearned for some sustained pole bending.
    I’d been given a heads-up on good white perch action on the edge of a not-too-distant river channel, and we decided to try that. Perch this year have been surprisingly absent, at least for us. Almost all of our usually reliable spots have been empty of fish of any size.
    We started off working the river shoreline, throwing Rooster Tails and Capt. Bert’s Perch Pounder spinner baits in the shallows, around erosion jetties, docks and next to flooded phragmites, areas that had always been hangouts of at least a few 11-inch blackbacks. We scored exactly one nine-inch perch in an hour.
    Unsurprised we headed out for the deeper channel waters and reached for the worms. Reciting a silent prayer to the fish gods and rigging with top and bottom rigs and flashy size 2 red nickel bait holder hooks, we added an ounce of lead, threaded on generous pieces of worm, and dropped them over the side.
    Our skiff was pushed slowly along the channel edge by a gentle breeze and a barely moving tide. Our rods bent over almost into the water as both of us cranked up double headers of white perch.
    Dropping our rigs back over resulted again in instantly bent rods, again loaded with double headers. Then again and yet again it happened. Our faces were beaming; we were apparently right in the middle of the meat bucket. The now heavily clouded skies could not dampen the glow of great action.
    When a light mist began, we hardly noticed. Though the whities were on the small side and we had lots of throwbacks, the action was non-stop. Gradually our cooler accumulated a few nice keepers.
    The rain soon got steadier and heavier. But with fishing like that, we donned our foul-weather gear and soldiered on. We weren’t sure when the winds would return or these perch would vanish, so we were taking no chances. The best time to fish is when they’re biting.
    The bite stayed red-hot. Even as it poured down hard, we remained enthusiastic. Our count was well past 100 and our hands were sore and torn from the many gill plate cuts and fin spikes in handling the wriggling devils when we at last exhausted our bait supply.
    Later that evening, after a long, hot shower and a glass of brandy, I reflected on the success of the trip, describing to my wife the mad fishing action and the endless downpour.
    She merely nodded her head. When I asked if she thought we were crazy, my spouse replied, “Why no dear, why in the world would anyone think that?”

A pair of planetary pairings

The waning moon rises in the late evening at week’s end and is high in the southwest with the approach of the rising sun. Each night it rises a half-hour later, so that by last-quarter on the 15th it crests the northeast horizon at midnight.
    The moon Saturday night and Sunday before dawn shines a few degrees below the smallest of the three celestial dippers: the Pleiades star cluster. This grouping of stars marks the shoulder of Taurus the bull and is a few degrees to the northwest of Aldebaran, the bull’s red eye. Aldebaran marks one end of another star cluster within Taurus, the Hyades, which is the V-shape of the bull’s face.
    Monday before dawn the moon trails just a few degrees behind Aldebaran. Early morning Tuesday the moon shines less than 10 degrees above Betelgeuse, the shoulder of Orion the hunter.
    Far to the east of Orion is Jupiter, which rises around 3:30am and is high overhead as daybreak approaches. By that time you might be able to spot Venus low against the horizon. The Morning Star is exponentially brighter than Jupiter, but so close to the horizon and the approaching sun that you may need binoculars to pick her out of the haze. Aligned halfway from Venus to Jupiter is Regulus, the blue-white heart of Leo the lion.    
    The other two planets visible to the unaided eye, Mars and Saturn, form a line of their own with the star Antares to the southwest in the evening sky. The two planets shine at nearly the same magnitude, but their colors make it easy to tell them apart. Not so with Antares, whose name literally translates to Rival of Mars. The red heart of Scorpius is farther to the east and is not as bright as the red planet. In the coming days Saturn sinks ever closer to the horizon, while Mars gains ground moving to the east. By month’s end Mars will be just a few degrees from Antares.
    Summer may be on the wane, but the season’s stars still command the evening sky. As the sun sets, look directly overhead for the zero-magnitude star Vega in the constellation Lyra. By 10pm first-magnitude Deneb, the head of Cygnus the swan, has taken the perch atop the celestial zenith. South of Vega and Deneb is Altair, the eye of the eagle Aquila, and the third point in the Summer Triangle.

You never know what’s going to happen on the Chesapeake

I had done well on my last three sorties. Now my first bite came in less than a minute.
    I had hooked a frisky spot of about four inches just in front of the dorsal with a size-4 black nickel treble hook and sent it over the side. It headed straight down to the Bay Bridge piling I had selected.
    A strong fish took the bait as it neared bottom. Setting the hook,    I felt immediate resistance, a strong headshake, then nothing. I reeled my line back and found that I had lost my spot. Hook, leader and swivel had been cut off cleanly as well.
    Either a toothy bluefish had hit the swivel when the fish I hooked started its struggle. Or the striper had run to some kind of bottom structure immediately after taking my spot and fouled my line on something sharp. I opened a fresh pack of trebles, red nickel models, bent one onto a section of fresh 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and replaced the lost swivel connection.
    I had been experimenting with these rather small treble hooks for a couple weeks, finding that they were excellent at mouth-hooking the rockfish eating my live spot baits. I could come tight much sooner than when using J hooks.
    Over the next three hours, however, my bait count got ever lower as I released spot after spot that had become exhausted swimming down in the varying currents. I couldn’t find a rockfish of any size to take my bait.
    Heading to the Eastern Shore, I redoubled my efforts. Drifting and fishing a wide area, I marked few fish but garnered nothing.
    Skunked, I headed back toward the Sandy Point ramps and home. As I passed by the previously unproductive bridge supports on the western side, I decided on one last try. I had just three baits remaining.

Back to Go
    Amazingly, with the first drop at the support where I had started the day, I was quickly fast to a strong, fat and healthy 25-inch rockfish. Netting and burying that fish in ice and with renewed optimism, I prepared to hook my next-to-last bait and send it down.
    At the last moment, that little fish squirmed in reaction to the prick of my treble and squirted out of my hand and over the side. Now I had the last bait at the last moment, back at the same place I started out. This was going to be very poetic or a major disappointment.
    I took extra care with this bait, then flipped it out next to the concrete pier. As it swam down toward the bottom I could feel it spurt ahead in panic. Something was chasing it already.
    The fish below quickly engulfed my bait and started running. I set the hook, and a very careful battle ensued.
    The fight went my way. Eventually easing the net under a powerful 24 incher, I was relieved to have limited out. But when I pried open the rockfish’s mouth to remove my hook, I noticed something odd. My red treble hook was stuck firmly in the corner of its jaw, just as I expected, but on the other side of its mouth was another embedded treble, a black one.
    It was my original hook cut off on that fish I lost, still attached to the leader and swivel.
    You never know what will happen on the Chesapeake.