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The Key to Catching Fish

Fishing’s unpredictable, so you need to be able to adapt

Harrison shows the 29-inch striper he caught live-lining.

We were drifting inside of the green channel marker off of Pod- ickery Point when my son got a quizzi- cal look on his face. Staring at the rapidly turn- ing spool of his reel Harrison said, “I think I’m hung up.”

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied. “Give it a minute.” The spool stopped for a beat, then started up again even faster.

I had promised my middle son suc- cess on some nice rockfish, forgetting that if you wish to amuse the fish gods, simply announce your plans. We intend- ed to drift soft crab, based on a hot tip from a charter boat skipper who had scored exceedingly well the day before.

Perfect, I thought, on waking. I knew just where the fish would likely be that morning and just what bait to use. But when I began my early-hour quest for crab, source after source said, ‘sorry, sold out.’ I feared that if the rockfish were keying on crab, anything else would be a very distant second choice.

At 10am, armed only with a bag of scraggly bloodworms purchased in desperation, we finally motored out to try live-lining.

It took a half-hour to find some likely marks off the edge of a nearby river channel before we could drop down pieces of worm on our No. 6 hooks. Feeling the tic-tic-tic of our rigs’ sinkers bouncing over shell bottom was reassuring, and soon we were swinging a couple of four- to five-inch perch.

I filled our live well, hooked up the aerator and deposited the baitfish with a sense of relief. Perhaps we could tempt some rockfish to eat after all.

Once we had a dozen small perch in our well, we headed for the Bay Bridge. It was almost noon, and the sun was bright and high.

About half way to our destination, we approached a cluster of boats sitting on chum slicks. Their anchor lines looked slack, and the postures of the anglers slumped in their craft suggest- ed things had not been going well.

As we skirted the fleet, I happened to glance down at my finder screen where some good marks strongly sug- gested rockfish. They were suspended from 10 feet to 15 feet. Our frisky perch just might prove tempting to them.

We had our live-lining outfits rigged and ready to go, so in no time, two lively baitfish were swimming down. Periodically boosting the perch into the rockfish danger zone, we slowly drifted along, pushed by a mild breeze.

Within just a few minutes, Harrison had his first run. When he slowly tight- ened the line — circle hooks, remember — his rod arched over. The drag began its hiss as the mono poured out. It was a good fish and a solid hookup. After sever- al minutes of lively struggle, we had a 29-incher in the net, then buried in ice.

Shortly after, I had a fat and healthy 25-inch striper.

Those two fish, as it turned out, were indeed blessings as our finder screen went empty. The school had fled for parts unknown.

We cruised likely looking areas for an hour or more with no results, then decided to head back to the ramp and to enjoy a late lunch. We had tempted the fish gods enough for one day. p