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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

Take care of yourself and the fish

Temperatures flirting with triple digits mean difficult times on the Chesapeake, not only for anglers but also for the fish. The young and old are the most susceptible to heatstroke, but everyone needs to be aware of the danger, as it can be fatal.

Over 900 sightings this past year
 

The first time I fished in saltwater was a memorable experience. I had waded out from the shoreline with a spinning rod in one hand and a bag of squid in the other. Catching a small flounder within the first few minutes made me bolder until at last I was far from shore and chest-deep in the water.     Then I saw the big, dark, triangular fin angling toward me through the water. My blood froze as I tried to backpedal toward a now impossibly distant beach.

How could losing 147 million sooks be healthy?

    Good news is scarce these days, so I was relieved when I saw Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ results of the 2018 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey.     But I did a double-take when I read in the report,  “Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Population Healthy.”     I was confused. Expecting to see the basis for the claims of health, I came upon the revelation of a 42 percent plunge in spawning female numbers. Wasn’t that seriously unhealthy?

The true music of nature is silence

One evening several years ago, when the Chesapeake had experienced a generous influx of gray trout (weakfish), I found a school outside the mouth of a small tributary south of the Magothy. It was just after dark, the tide was falling and the fish were positioned a long cast from the inlet to intercept the baitfish, shrimp and small crabs being carried out by the tidal current.

Fishing’s unpredictable, so you need to be able to adapt

Fishing’s unpredictable, so you need to be able to adapt

       We were drifting inside of the green channel marker off of Podickery Point when my son got a quizzical look on his face. Staring at the rapidly turning spool of his reel Harrison said, “I think I’m hung up.”      “No, I don’t think so,” I replied. “Give it a minute.” The spool stopped for a beat, then started up again even faster.

Live-lining can beat chumming — without the stink

      Placing the hook just in front of the dorsal of a small perch, I lowered it into the water off the side of my skiff, drifting not far north of the Baltimore Light. My live bait jetted down, seeking the bottom 20 feet below. It never reached its destination. It was intercepted by a hungry 10-pound rockfish that was about to make my day.

It takes practice and adjustment, but they’re good for Bay rockfish

      My experience with circle hooks began some 20 years ago, when I took part in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources project studying mortality in rockfish caught with J versus circle hooks. All the fishers were chumming. In the control group using J hooks, we established that half of deep-hooked fish that were released died within two hours.

Doubtful at first, I’m a confirmed member of the circle-hook club

      Opening day of the second rockfish season, May 16, looked to be a pretty one. It was warm with calm wind, the sky nicely overcast and a fine mist as we motored out of Sandy Point Marina in my 17-foot skiff. It did turn out pretty — pretty wet, then very wet and pretty cold.       The bite made up for it all.

Good, but not quite good enough

      I had spent some five days on the water over the last couple of weeks, 30-plus long listless hours, waiting for this. My rod tip finally twitched, then twitched again. I eased my outfit from the rod holder just as the fish began to run. Perfect. Giving it a brief five count I put the reel in gear and, as the line came tight, I lifted my rod firmly. Big fish on.