The Summer Bite Begins Hottesttest
My reel began clicking out an alert, slowly at first but quickly turning into a metallic shriek as the fish that had grabbed my bait shifted into high gear. I plucked the outfit from the rod holder and switched off the line-out alarm, thumbing the reel spool lightly and letting the striper run with my bait.
The rockfish bite has slowed the last few days, but it should pick up after the hectic boat traffic of the recent holiday dissipates and the stripers return from the deep channels to which they fled. Cow nose rays and sub-legal rockfish invaded the Tolley/Hackett’s area recently, but these nuisances will also thin out, allowing some of the better fish to return. Podickery Point was starting to produce superior-sized rockfish before Memorial Day, and that situation should resume with calmer times.
After a quick five-count, I threw the reel in gear. As the line came tight, I hauled back with a good, firm hook set. Then my reel began a low howl as 20-pound mono ripped off the spool, pulled out by my fish bound for the horizon. It was another hefty striped bass, our fourth in about an hour.
It was our third good outing in as many days that week, and the action had been consistently excellent.
“Net?” My friend asked.
“No, not yet. It’ll be a few minutes. This guy is really upset,” I replied. Within minutes I had him alongside and in the cooler. We were limited out for the day.
This season’s chum bite has developed into as certain an event this past month as is possible fishing the mid-Chesapeake. Calm winds, many overcast mornings and frequent thunderstorm predictions that invariably proved baseless have been accompanied by the antics of large schools of hungry rockfish feeding up after their spawn.
Our skiff was anchored again off the mouth of the Severn that morning, along with a number of other boats now that the word had spread. Encountering fish at different locations on different days over the last few weeks, we had had consistent luck anywhere we tried from the green can at Hackett’s all the way to the red marker at Tolley — as long as the depths measured in the 35-foot range.
We were fishing four outfits, medium-heavy to heavy six-and-a-half to seven-foot rods paired with Abu or Shimano casting reels and 15- to 20-pound mono. The reels had line-out alarms, called clickers by many. Fishing rods rigged with bait-runner-type spin reels would achieve the same effect.
Casting out fresh-cut menhaden baits on 5/0 J hooks with 20-pound fluorocarbon leaders and set with two-ounce sinkers, we put our outfits in rod holders with the reels in free spool. The resistance of the line-out alarms was just enough to hold the baits in the tidal current. Seldom did we have to wait more than 15 or 20 minutes, and often much less, before a fish took off with one of our baits and set the reel to screaming.
Using rather large pieces of cut menhaden for bait attracted bigger fish and also seemed to result in the smaller fish getting lip hooked (or not hooked at all), since they couldn’t easily engulf the baits. We boated very few undersized fish on any of our many trips.
Beginning early in the month when the great bite first became evident, we released any uninjured fish under 24 inches. Neither of us ever regretted it, as limits of bigger fish were that certain. Curiously, the overwhelming majority of the stripers going into our cooler continued to be male.
Another thing that has been especially encouraging is that we didn’t encounter any rockfish with the sores that have plagued so many fish these last few years. The infections may show up as the summer wears on, but for now the rockfish stocks look healthy.
Night Boating Demands Special Caution
At Kent Narrows, a 21-foot Boston Whaler approaching at speed late Sunday night May 27 ran into the concrete wall of the south jetty. One passenger was killed and two more seriously injured. The driver of the craft was not injured.
At Deale the same night, a Chris Craft (above) missed the channel, striking and grounding on the western jetty, above. There were apparently no serious injuries, but the boat, Irish Make, remained high and dry for all to see throughout Memorial Day.
When piloting at night, take these two rules to heart:
1. Never take a route you haven’t taken in daylight;
2. Always proceed with extreme caution.
“Use all navigational aids you have, but nothing’s a substitute for clear vision. Use spotlights and keep a watch,” says Natural Resources Police Sgt. Art Windemuth.