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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

Nobody’s the loser when perch is on the table

We were horribly late. The informal perch tournament had started promptly at 10am, but it was closer to 11 before our boat finally joined the fray. Easing up to the first stop on the planned search pattern, Roger Sexhauer and I made quick casts to within inches of some ancient pilings just off the rocky shoreline while Mike Ebersberger, our captain, set a small anchor.

They’re the best fish around, and this year they’re about the only fish around

The perch I’d hooked stayed deep, which is always a good sign. Big whites (which are mostly black) are reluctant to approach the surface in a battle. The longer it takes to get a glimpse of a whitey on the end of your line, the bigger it usually is. The scrapper I had on was giving all the signs of being a good one.

Hopping Scum Frogs over lily pads for bass and bluegill

We eased the canoe quietly up to within comfortable fly-casting distance of the shaded shoreline. A sparse blanket of fallen petals and pollen covered most of the water’s surface along this wooded edge. But I hoped the bluegills holding there could tell the difference between floating foliage and a tasty beetle.

How to catch early summer rockfish

This is turning out to be a difficult striped bass season. Dirty water coming down the Susquehanna River and into the Chesapeake has sent resident mid-Bay fish fleeing to cleaner currents and deeper water. Only over the last two weeks is the water clearing and the fish returning.

And the best lure for catching them

The sun was high in the sky when I arrived at my fishing hole. Easing my skiff up to the shoreline on my electric motor, I put a little extra sunscreen on my face and arms while the water settled. The day looked to be a hot one.     A strong flood lapped high on the rock riprap along this likely looking stretch of white perch territory.

The last jewel, white perch, returning to the shallows

Just as horse racing has its Triple Crown, with Maryland’s Preakness its second jewel, the Chesapeake has its own Triple Crown: a gourmet celebration of the three tastiest seafoods the Bay has to offer.     This year two of our three savories — the rockfish and the blue crab — have already resumed presence around the Bay. The third, white perch, had yet to return to their traditional summertime residences.

Hooking up with a striper is sweet, and sweeter still if it’s a keeper

The sound of line being pulled off a reel sent both of us into high alert. The tip of my nearby rod in its holder flexed only slightly under the pressure of the run. Except for the meager tension of the clicker, the reel was in free spool, and line fed out smoothly as the fish accelerated off with my bait.

Blue crabs bite early, but we get the better meal

The marine weather forecast promised only a short window of good weather, but that early May day was the only opportunity coming for quite some time. My friend Mike, his girlfriend Michelle and I launched my skiff that morning, just as a generous full tide was beginning to fall, a good phase to crab the long narrow inlet we had in mind.

It should be too early for croakers, but who’s complaining?

It was our first drift. My two youngest sons, both still in their teens, were holding medium-weight spin rods poised over the side, awaiting action. Spooled with 12-pound line and baited with pieces of common grocery-store shrimp, with an ounce-and-a-half sinker, the rig dropped right to the bottom where the fish were — without overpowering the twitching tips of their six-foot sticks.

Seek bluegill, or bream, in sweetwater when the dogwood blooms

It was warm and sunny, a lovely day with a light, early morning breeze coming out of the southeast. I hadn’t seen a day like it in some time, and from the last weather forecast, I knew that I might not see another for perhaps longer still.     Hurrying, I slid my squat, blue dingy into the back of the pickup and filled it with tackle, battery and an electric motor. Then I headed for the Eastern Shore.