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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

A boy is not likely to forget his first Chesapeake Bay rockfish

     Six-year-old Logan Doyle grimaced in concentration as he gripped his slender rod. Arranging his hold on the cork grip was a bit of a challenge for his small hands. As he pulled back against the fish he had just hooked, his eyes grew large. The fish was pulling way harder than he was.

Take a Lab to water, and he’s a cool, happy dog 

      The zoomies, a recently coined term in the lexicon of canine behavior, describes sudden instances of dog hyperactivity characterized by brief periods of high speed and circular runs. What precipitates the zoomies, no one knows. We always marked it up to exuberance.       It is generally harmless — except for collateral damage to delicate furnishings, appliances and knickknacks.

Even the Bay’s leftovers can be transformed into a heavenly feas

      As I gazed into my refrigerator, I was impressed by the quality of the items that jammed its shelves. Chesapeake Country is bountiful.      I found leftover ears of locally grown sweet corn that had proved very good the day before. There, too, was a platter of sliced, rich, red tomatoes from the Eastern Shore, the ragged remains of a roasted chicken, a large handful of fresh green beans and a few blue crabs that had escaped consumption two days previous.

The day’s beginning and end are fine times to fish in summer 

     The light wind brought a welcome coolness to my cheeks as I drifted ever closer to the ripline at the mouth of the river. I lifted from the live well a struggling spot already pinned just in front of the dorsal with a light-wire 6/0 circle hook. It was full dark on a very quiet evening, and I was by myself.      One of the better times to fish in summer’s heat is after dark. You will have scant company. And on the right night with the right tide there can be some incredible action.

Why risk a big fish when you can respool a reel for just a couple bucks?


    My wife is off to the sweltering south to visit with two of our three sons as well as our two grandkids. I’m alone at home with our young Lab, Hobbes, a long to-do list and a pile of dirty tackle. My skiff is outside awaiting a good scrubbing, and there are a couple of disassembled reels on the dining room table.

Live-lining Norfolk spot sacrifices a fish to catch a bigger fish

The Chesapeake tide was ebbing to almost placid. Rockfish prefer their dinner be swept to them by moving water. But in this case the stalling currents allowed them more freedom to gather around the structures where we were fishing. Our bait was their favorite snack this time of year, Norfolk spot.

The companionship of fishing endures even when the fish don’t 


      One of the rod tips in the stern holders bounced a bit, then again, then bent down deeply. The severe deflection was caused by a hefty rockfish attempting to flee the area with a 7/0 circle hook in a corner of its jaw. Since the sound of the line out clicker was just under the threshold of our damaged hearing, the striper got a good head start on its escape before anyone noticed. 

With big fish around underwater structures, your only hope is that your line will withstand the abrasion 


      I felt just the slightest tap 16 feet down, and set the hook. First there was a solid resistance. Then everything just went to hell. My rod slammed down hard, almost hitting the gunnel as I did my best with one hand to keep the heavily arced shaft somewhat horizontal. As my other hand was steering the boat away from an impending collision with a Bay Bridge support, there was little else I could do.

Chumming ground-up baitfish lures the big fish to you


     Though my buddy and I had been doing very well drifting fresh soft-crab baits around the Bay Bridge structures, that tactic was going to be short-lived. Soon we would have to search for rockfish over much wider areas. For that kind of fishing, the soft-crab approach is not very effective.      “Guess we’ll have to go chumming soon,” we said, almost in unison. 

Good luck on the Bay is not a sure thing, but the adventure is always exhilarating


      I felt the light tap-tap on the line of my baitcaster and brought my arm up smartly. The rod jerked down, bending hard, and the line peeled off the reel, howling against a firmly set drag. Then the fish angled the line across a nearby barnacled pier and cut me off. I slumped down in defeat yet again.