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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

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.

Surely the fishing will get better in May

Cold, rain, wind and otherwise miserable weather. That’s the standard spring day in 2011. I can’t remember another year when I have gotten so few days on the water by this time.

It’s open water vs. sweetwater

This time of year brings conflict for me. The Trophy Rockfish Season beckons with the promise of big fish on big water, a temptation that is almost impossible to resist. Yet there is another of nature’s sirens murmuring in my ear. This one promises even more luscious treats to be had as the sweetwater bite blossoms.

April 16 is the big day

Anglers have been waiting for this event for more than 120 miserable days, ever since the season closed last December 16. These have been cold, snowy, rainy, windy days, days without hope of even a glimpse of Mr. Pajama-sides. But all of that is over on April 16, when Trophy Rockfish Season begins at last.1

Chesapeake Bay’s most common and perhaps least common catches

Sending out a chartreuse shad dart tipped with a grass shrimp toward the dark water of the far bank, I let it sink for a brief three-count before tightening up my line. Almost immediately there came a sharp tap, and I set the hook. My rod bowed as I leaned into yet another lively white perch.

To catch them, fish fresh shallows of tribs

The spring equinox has kicked this year’s white perch run into overdrive. An increasing amount of daylight in early spring is one of the prime stimulants to the white perch spawn. The equinox, coupled with our recent record rainfalls, has gotten this best loved denizen of the Tidewater moving early.