Success at Last
We had been set up for less than 20 minutes when I had the first run. The clicker on my Ambassadeur bait caster began to chatter, slowly at first, then rapidly. I picked up the rig and switched off the mechanical alarm to eliminate its resistance. Thumbing the now-whirling spool, I steeled myself as a powerful fish continued off with my chunk of menhaden.
The trophy rockfish season is progressing extremely well this year, especially with our recent spate of good weather. The fish are often fickle and the bite sometimes inconsistent, but that is expected. Trolling above the Bay Bridge is now producing well. Early-season chumming, while chancy, is still very popular along both sides of the Bay. Best northern bets for trophy rock are Podickery, Love, Hacketts, Thomas Point and the Gum Thickets. Farther south at Breezy Point Marina, the bite has been uneven lately as well but plenty of boats are still getting fish in the mid-30-inch range around the C&R and 80 buoys.
Spring Turkey Season: May 10-23, half-hour before sunrise to sunset.
Throwing the reel into gear, I waited for the line to come tight then hauled back smartly. My stiff seven-foot casting rod bent hard over, then straightened. I had missed the fish. The memory of our last few trophy rockfishing trips came rushing back: Only one bite each trip, not a single fish in the box. It was happening again.
I turned to Mo, voicing my bitterness and disappointment, but he was deaf to the words. His rod was now in a severe arc, straining mightily, and there was a misty cloud issuing from his reel as a big rockfish ripped off line.
It was a long battle after that first. It barely fit in the net, and when I finally boated the brute, we celebrated.
Getting a picture and icing the handsome fish , we finally relaxed. Our two-week skunk was gone, although I was still fishless.
As we congratulated each other, a harsh, buzzing interrupted us. My second rod was bent over. The drag was screaming bloody murder.
Mo manned the net this time, and after several, long and tense minutes of fish fight, I joined the ranks of the trophy successful.
Skills of Success
I don’t consider myself a skilled bait angler. But I have fished with some very good ones and know, generally, the elements of a good setup. We had chosen our location that morning with as much information as we could get. One source stood out.
Leo James, a friend and a particularly skilled waterman as well as the owner and operator of LJ Marina on Mill Creek in Annapolis, knows the day-to-day pulse and mood of the Chesapeake as few others. He had tipped me early that morning to a nearby area, and we had taken his advice.
We set up in 35 feet of water off the mouth of the Severn on the channel edge with an ample supply of frozen chum and a dozen sweet-smelling menhaden. We sunk our chum deep in a weighted mesh bag to ensure the menhaden scent and fish bits got right to the bottom.
With two large rockfish tournaments putting over 4,000 boats on the Bay, plus a number of sailboat races, it was prudent to assume the fish would be driven deep. Presenting your offerings at the depths the fish are holding is a prime rule in bait fishing.
All four of our rod and reel outfits featured fish-finder setups, a sliding two-ounce bank sinker above a swivel with five-foot, 25-pound fluorocarbon leaders and 5/0 short-shanked Eagle Claw needle-sharp, live bait hooks. The hooks were bent to the leaders with a no-slip loop knot. The loop knot allows maximum movement of the bait in the tidal current, giving it a more natural look as it flits on the bottom.
We started with the beginning of the falling flood, 9am that morning. Changing baits every 15 to 20 minutes to maintain a good-scent is a bait angler’s ace in the hole. The bite was continuous and exciting. By noon we had scored seven fish with two beauties in the box.
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Boating Safety Alert
After last year’s record number of boating deaths, Natural Resources Police are looking alert for negligent and unsafe behavior on the water and are strictly enforcing Maryland’s laws on alcohol and boat operation. It’s a good time to refresh yourself on the rules of the water and be considerate to your fellow boaters.