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Winning Is No Easy Game

Against a trophy rock, just a taste of success will set you ablaze

We hadn’t had a single bait touched for hours when we finally decided we’d had enough. I cranked in my lines for the trip home, as did my friend in the bow, Maurice. As I turned back to complain to him once again about our wretched luck, Mo’s rod was bent hard over and he struggled merely to hold on to it.
    His drag was screaming and feeding line into a powerful run as I scrambled to clear my rig from the water. The brute then turned and headed back toward us, then changed its mind again as my friend cranked furiously. Mo watched helplessly as the 20-pound Power Pro smoked back off his Abu reel spool.

Bait Fish Everywhere, But Not a Rock to Bite

    It had been cold and blowing or raining for most of the week when the marine weather report suddenly promised light winds and some nice warm sun. Untrusting of recent forecasting, and with good reason, we had waited until the day dawned and the weather proved as predicted before making preparations.


    The trophy rockfish bite has been excellent these first two weeks of the season. Fears that the warm weather would result in an early spawn, sending the majority of big fish out of the area before the season started, have proven unfounded.
    Based on the reports that I’ve heard, about a third of the females are still pre-spawn, indicating that even a later start to the season may be prudent next year.
    Both sides of the Bay have proven fertile grounds for encountering the big fish. The northern trolling route starts at Sandy Point and follows the channel south to Thomas Point then east to Bloody Point, turning north along Tilghman, up through the Gum Thickets, back to the Bay Bridge, then west and back south again.
    Mike down at Breezy Point Marina reports plentiful trophy-sized fish, especially between the C&R buoy and Buoy 80 in 40 to 80 feet of water.
    Parachutes, umbrella rigs and tandem bucktails primarily in chartreuse with white a close second (and John-Deere green a surprising wild-card third) are the dominant lures.
    Chumming and baitfishing is one of the more certain methods, especially for shore-side anglers, to hook up with a giant on light tackle.
    The white perch run continues to evolve in endless fits and starts, with mature fish being reported (still carrying roe) here and there, but no real patterns yet evolving.
    Croaker are being taken by commercial menhaden netters, but the hardhead haven’t shown up on anglers’ lines. That could change soon. The recent cold spell has slowed down white shad, largemouth bass and bluegill action, but all should resume with warmer weather.

In Season

Spring Turkey Season: thru May 9, half-hour before sunrise to noon; May 10-23, half-hour before sunrise to sunset.

    By the time we launched out of Sandy Point, we were already running late. But the Bay was flat calm, and the air warm. We ran south on a fast plane all the way past the green channel marker off Hackett’s Bar. Guided by the advice of a friend who had scored well the first week of the trophy rockfish season, we had a general destination in mind.
    Provisioned with a big bucket of frozen chum and a number of fresh, sweet-smelling menhaden for bait, we hoped to tempt a couple of trophy-sized rockfish. Marking on our fish finder an unbelievable amount of what we assumed to be baitfish carpeting the bottom of the area, we chose a spot well south of the Hackett’s can, almost to Tolley, in 35 feet of water.
    I’ve never claimed much skill at chumming, but I reasoned that if there was this amount of bait around, big stripers were likely nearby. According to the tide and current charts, the water flow was to be in the early outgoing stage, always my luckiest phase on this stretch of water.
    But there was no action. We pulled anchor to move farther south and found that the blanket of bait fish covering the bottom extended, unbroken, wherever we ventured. With so much bait swimming around, it would be difficult indeed to tempt a fish with our meager offerings.
    Moving our operation again and again, eventually back around Hackett’s green can, we discovered another friend had set up and begun to fish. We joined up next to him and added our chum slick and hunks of cut fish to the effort. Perhaps our combined offerings would get better results.
    We endured into the late afternoon, past the time when rain showers had been predicted. Finally fed up, we decided to leave. Then Mo got his hit. Just that suddenly we were in the roses.
Maybe Tomorrow
    Mo gained line … then lost line … then gained it back again, working the fish ever nearer. I waited, poised with the net, hoping that it would be big enough, and straining to catch sight of it. Then disaster occurred.
    Maurice’s rod suddenly went straight. All tension disappeared from his line. He cranked madly, thinking the fish was running back toward him again, but it wasn’t. The bugger had shed the hook.
    We continued fishing until dark and rain showers chased us home, but we got no other bite. Our enthusiasm, however, remained fully ablaze. We’d had a taste of success, and though it had been denied, we were both convinced victory was close. Maybe tomorrow.