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Old Dog Learns a New Trick

I’m buying long rods to fish from shore the windy days of early ­trophy rockfish season

       My latest fishing quest originated in last year’s trophy rockfish season as I was putting in a supply of ice for my skiff’s fish box. Parking near an SUV, I had paused to compare notes with the occupants who were as eager to get into some action as I was, using a different sort of gear.
      They were shore anglers, armed with the long surf-type fishing rods needed to get long casts off the shallow Bayside shorelines of the public areas that have become popular in recent years, especially during the early season.
      I admired the anglers for their zeal even as I pitied them for the endless and fishless hours I suspected they experienced in their pursuit of trophy rockfish from land. Yet the anglers assured me they were doing well.
      Since it was just over a week into the season, I smiled. Many anglers claim they are doing well, particularly if they aren’t. It’s really nobody’s business but their own.
      Just to reassure myself that I wasn’t missing anything, I asked if they had any pictures. Of course they did, and one dived into the SUV to fetch his phone. My jaw dropped at a picture of him and his two buddies with three of the biggest, fattest trophy rock I had seen yet that year. 
      He also confided that those fish weren’t the only ones they’d scored but conceded that they’d already been out four or five days during the trophy season. Plus, they had released some trophy-sized fish during the earlier March and April catch-and-release season. 
      My opinion of the opportunities afforded to shore anglers shifted considerably. I had not yet managed to get my skiff out on the water even once. It wasn’t that I lacked the free time. What I lacked was calm seas. It had been blowing since opening day.
      Weather is one of the biggest drawbacks of boat fishing during the trophy season. It’s not so much a problem if you’ve got a larger craft that can handle a good chop and provide shelter from the chilly winds that blow over the Chesapeake in April. For smaller skiffs like my 17-footer, it’s a showstopper. Getting out even once a week is often a challenge with our cold and windy springtime weather.
     Shoreside angling suddenly began to make a lot more sense. There are publicly accessible sites up and down both sides of the Bay, usually with a lee shore sheltered from the worst of any small craft advisory winds. If I wanted more time on the water, I decided, perhaps I should join the long-rod crowd. But the only long rods I had were fly rods.
      As it takes time (and financial resources) to put together a proper set of tackle, I put it off until the following year, which is now upon me. Doing a bit of research in the meantime, I determined what was needed and have begun to put together a couple of outfits. 
      The most popular surf sticks for shoreside fishing around the Chesapeake are nine- to 11-footers coupled with a 5000- or 6000-series spin reel capable of holding a few hundred yards of 20- to 30-pound monofilament or braid. The extra-capacity reels are necessary because shore-bound anglers often make casts of 150 to 300 feet, then have to contend with the sizeable runs of big fish.
      Right now I’m looking forward to a busy early season beginning in just a few weeks. When it’s too cold and windy to take out my skiff, I’m planning to be along a shoreline in a comfortable beach chair, clad in well insulated clothes and sipping a warm beverage, with an eye on my rods, waiting for trophy rockfish to come by and take my baits.
 
Wish a Fish Foundation Needs Your Extra Gear
      If you’ve got an excess of any kind of fishing equipment that you’re no longer using, the Wish a Fish Foundation could use it (410-913-9043). The Foundation is intending to raise money by selling donated fishing gear at the Pasadena Fishing Flea Market on Feb. 17 and 18 at Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Hall, 161 Ritchie Hwy., Severna Park.
      Wish A Fish accepts donations on Thursday, Feb. 15, when some afternoon and evening help would be welcome. Volunteers are also needed to help at the tables at the flea market (outside but in a tent) on the 17th and maybe 18th, 7:30am-2pm: 
410-439-3474.