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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

Hobbes goes to sea

      Taking a dog out onto the Chesapeake does not seem like a complicated task. I didn’t expect many difficulties from my new pup, Hobbes, as Labradors were bred long ago to accompany fishermen on their voyages. We had complications.       As we would eventually be some distance from land, it was not only prudent but essential that the young, inexperienced pup have some extra flotation.

Snakeheads and catfish are plentiful


     Over Memorial Day weekend, I heard a new, amusing joke.       Question: Why are snakeheads and channel catfish the most numerous fish caught this year?       Answer: Because they’re the only two species Maryland Department of Natural Resources hasn’t tried to help. 

You don’t need a license to catch a dozen, but you’ll need a little luck

    I had just set the last of my four lines when the first run occurred. Surprised at the suddenness but carefully fingering the cotton line, I looked out of the corner of my eye for the net.     Despite my pressure on the string, my quarry continued to move away. My heart beat faster, too. One does not want to blow the first opportunity of a seemingly perfect morning.

Sooks are vital for the species, so let’s keep them safe

     We’ve heard great news about blue crabs. The total population has risen this past year to almost 600 million, according to the 2019 Winter Dredge Survey.       Best of all, the sooks, our female spawning-age crabs, have reached a population of 190 million, only 35 million under the target level for healthy reproduction success that we should be striving to maintain all along. The spawning-size female population is the major factor in maintaining a healthy blue crab population.

Recreational anglers share the blame

      Now that most federal, state and associated conservation organizations are agreeing that the striped bass population is again in crisis, the finger pointing has started. Some are laying the blame on the recreational fisheries, some on commercial entities and others on over-harvest of the forage species on which rockfish rely. All play a role.       Recreational catch-and-release in particular is getting a new hard look, and deservedly so.

Bad weather, bad news

      The opening day of Maryland’s trophy rockfish season was a bust, principally because April 20 was a windy mess with southern gusts to 30 knots. A quick survey of the Sandy Point Marina, where hundreds of boats are usually launched on the first day, revealed only two boat trailers in that enormous parking lot. A drive by the most popular shore-based fishing area, the Sandy Point Beach, showed a similar lack of anglers.

Hobbes is a seven-week-old Lab pup

     When Hobbes arrived at our home Saturday evening, two things became apparent. Neither order nor melancholy can survive around a seven-week-old black Labrador puppy. Chaos and laughter, however, grow exponentially.      It’s been more than three years since our female German shorthair pointer Sophie passed, long enough for the pain and sorrow of her absence to fade.

After too many winter weeks off the water, I’m fishing again

     The first fish was a small crappie, but it generated as much enthusiasm as a state record-breaker. Our lucky angler, Ben, held it proudly aloft, his light spin rod bent over, as we all cheered his success. This diminutive fish was the first catch of the year.
It’s not a sport if you always win
      I’m having trouble staying asleep through the night. That happens this time of year. Probably because of the pollen starting to pour off the surrounding trees, my sinuses are seizing up and threatening to suffocate me in the wee hours. But I know it’s not so simple. The growing warmth and lengthening days make a subconscious call to action. Spring is here and trophy rockfish season will soon be here.       Non-anglers may not understand.

With rockfish numbers suffering, these prolific fighters make a good alternative

      Late last season I had a most unusual day on the water.       Moving again after releasing a number of undersized schooly rockfish, I cruised south down toward the Bay Bridge. It was nearing the end of a falling tide, and my fish box, bait box, chum bag and patience were all verging on empty.