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A Sweetwater Slam

Despite heavy winds, I landed a largemouth bass, a bluegill and a pickerel

Most folks know that a grand slam is baseball’s term for a home run with the bases loaded. Angling has its own slam. A Chesapeake Bay slam is landing a rockfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel on the same day. The freshwater version is typically a largemouth bass, a pickerel and a bluegill. 

Fish Are Biting

When winds permit, there is great fishing on the Chesapeake. Trollers are starting to do well pulling small spoons, fast and on top for Spanish mackerel and blues, slow and low for rockfish. Chumming and fishing cut alewife on the bottom for stripers is starting to work well when the bluefish aren’t around. But live-lining is still the No. 1 ticket and will be as long as spot remain in the Bay. The top-water bite continues to develop in fits and starts but is most reliable on the Eastern Shore side, particularly near the mouth of the Eastern Bay. Breaking rockfish are likely to turn up anywhere right now, and Bomber Bait Company’s Badonk-a-Donk is getting raves for drawing big fish strikes. Spotted seatrout are making a small showing to our south from the Honga down to Crisfield. There isn’t much size to them, but they are as beautiful (and delicious) as ever. 

 

In Season

Hunting seasons are now open for both birds and beasts. 

Resident goose season continues thru Sept. 25 in the western zone. 

Whitetail archery season thru Oct. 21

Early teal season thru Sept. 30

Dove season thru Oct. 21 

Rail birds thru Nov. 9 

Squirrel thru Feb. 27

Find the 2010 Maryland Waterfowl Season dates and bag limits at www.dnr.state.md.us/huntersguide.

Last week as I launched my 12-foot Old Town canoe at one of my favorite Eastern Shore lakes, however, a slam was the furthest thing from my mind. I was mostly concerned with catching anything at all. 

Driven from Bay waters by small-craft advisories, I had hoped that the thickly wooded shoreline of this distant water would provide shelter, at least in part, from the half gale that had been thrashing the countryside for much of the week.

Out on the water, it was somewhat protected, at least from the worst of the wind. However, the lee area that I had hoped to fish was blanketed with a mat of bright-green floating algae pulled in by the backdraft of the wind passing over the trees. 

Paddling out, I cast a floating lure called a Scum Frog across a field of lily pads. The algae and vegetation was so intermingled, however, that the frog barely got wet for the length of the retrieve. 

On about the third cast as I plopped and hopped the ersatz toad across the green mess, I became mesmerized with the lure’s antics. It really did look like a frog out of water.

As I twitched my rod, one hop followed another. Then I would waddle it for a bit across the floating weed, following with another hop. It was oddly entertaining. But catching a fish under these conditions was obviously out of the question.

 

Who’s on First?

As I drew the lure almost back to the boat, the frog at last crossed a small piece of open water, a spot barely a foot in diameter. Drawing it delicately into the wet patch, I gave it one more twitch. It was instantly inhaled by a chunky, three-pound largemouth.

Dumbfounded, I managed to get a hook into the fish then watched open-mouthed as it bent my rod hard over and made a series of a half-dozen head-shaking, gill-flaring jumps up through the floating greenery at a distance of less than a dozen feet. 

Finally lipping the scrappy devil at boatside, I was still a little uncertain how I’d pulled a fish from this vegetative jumble. A couple of additional casts over that cover convinced me that this was a one-of-a-kind occurrence. I paddled away for clearer water.

 

Hitting a Double

Unlimbering my fly rod, I approached the one shallow cove relatively clear of floating growth and fired out a small black popper. My second cast was greeted with a solid take, and I found myself hooked up with a jumbo bluegill that proceeded to run all over the cove, first one way then another, then finally diving into a distant mat of aquatic growth. 

Pulling my canoe after the fish, I eventually freed him from the morass, retrieved my popper and released the sizeable battler to fight another day. Another dozen or so casts around the area turned up nothing.

Paddling on to another near-shore scattering of lily pads, I switched back to my casting rod and a sinking, soft plastic Horny Toad lure, swimming the critter through the few openings that showed. The wind was strengthening, and the spinning gusts descending from the tree tops made accurate casting almost impossible.

 

Rounding Third

Just as I was about to give up, a lithe, green shape darted out and chomped down on my swimming frog. Hooking itself in the violent attack, the fish threw water and weed about with abandon, taking a bit of drag … then trying to wrap me around some thick lily pad roots.

Failing that, it shot back under my canoe and tried for the other side. Determined as it was, it didn’t quite have the bulk for such a maneuver against my 15-pound line. I soon had the 19-inch pickerel in hand.

 

Heading Home

The wind was really singing overhead by now, and one particularly strong gust swirled down, sending my canoe twirling back out of the lily pads. Releasing the pickerel, I secured my rod and reached for the paddle.

I had scored a freshwater slam, my first in quite some time. Now I was going home while still ahead of the game.