|Moment of Raptor
Every time I cross over the Route 50-Cape St. Claire interchange, I look down into the mitigated wetland that carries the waters of Whitehall Creek to the Bay. Over the years, I have rarely been disappointed, for among the pond lilies, pin oaks and various marsh plants, Ive seen beavers, herons, egrets and ducks.
This week, I almost pedaled past a red-shouldered hawk roosting on a high branch nearly level with the highway and less than 20 yards from me. I stopped, our eyes met briefly, and it showed me an ever-so-brief glimpse into its wild nature. It seemed to size me up, determining I was neither food nor adversary but merely an object of no more consequence to its existence than the rush of traffic that whooshed past us. It seemed to possess a quiet confidence and sense of purpose, and I wondered if she (or he) was focusing its mind by taking in the crispness of the morning before starting the serious business of hunting. Probably not.
Like all buteos, red-shouldered hawks are broad of wing and tail. Obvious distinctions between them and their brethren the red-tailed hawk aside, there are several other distinguishing features. Red-shouldered hawks are pale-red underneath, whereas red-tails have a white-patched breast with streaks across the belly.
Shortly, it had enough of my witless gawking and launched into the air, gaining altitude by the second, probably never giving me another thought. I, on the other hand, thought about the hawk for the rest of the bicycle ride to work.
Fish Are Biting
In week two of the rockfish season, fishermen and charter captains report better success than in the first week. The opening days were marked by finicky fish, rough weather and an abundance of lions mane, or winters jellyfish in the Bay, which disrupted trolling patterns.
Many fishermen switched from bucktails to spoons to avoid the tangles and hassle, as spoons would shed the jellies easier. It was a 13/0 Crippled Alewife spoon that helped Steve Linhard of Annapolis hook his first trophy rock of the season, a 32-incher taken off Kent Island.
There also seem to be a good number of large bunker, or menhaden, which may translate into fewer strikes, so perhaps big lures might be the ticket.
Rob Jepson from Anglers (410/974-4013) says that several keeper rockfish have been caught from Matapeake fishing pier on cut herring. Some nice white perch are holding on Hacketts Bar. Oyster bars in Eastern Bay, West River and Tolly Bar may hold croaker.
Fred Donovan from Rod n Reel (800/233-2080) says charter captains have taken a fair number of stripers in the 30-plus inch class this week, with the best so far weighing in at about 45 pounds. Nearly all fishermen are trolling, and many are using umbrella rigs with parachutes and bucktails of white and green. Some boats are trolling south of CR buoy to the Gooses, and others are working up north around Bloody Point.
The North Beach Fishing Pier is still hot in the evenings for big croaker that take bloodworms. In May, the headboat Lady Hooker will run from Rod n Reel every Saturday and Sunday from 8am-3 pm. Shell go out every day starting Memorial Day weekend.
In the Patuxent area, legal rockfish have been caught trolling around Hoopers Island light and the HI buoy. Again, most fishermen are using umbrella rigs in a range of colors from white to yellow and speckled green. The Gas Docks have been active as well.
Toward the state line, Potomac River and Point Lookout have given up many good rockfish as well as croaker. In Tangier Sound, there are decent numbers of rockfish in the deep guts and flats around Crisfield and Smith Island. Most fish run 18 to 24 inches. The speckled trout watch is on, and the specs are in the underwater grass beds in some Virginia rivers.
Spring Rockfish Regulations
Bay Proper: April 25-May 31 (South of the Brewerton
Channel, no tributaries, no eels allowed)
Maryland Tribs/Potomac: April 22-May 31
Minimum Size: 28
Creel Limit: 1