|Don't Fall for the Jedi Mind Trick
Be aware of the Jedi mind trick, or it could cost you a keeper rockfish. I learned that over the weekend as I headed out on a glorious Sunday morning with friends Chuck and Paul to fish the second day of the Val N. Eshleman Memorial Rockfish Open. In its sixth year, the tournament is a fundraiser for the Val N. Eshleman Foundation, which was founded by Val's friends and family after his death six years ago. To date, the tournament has raised more than $30,000 for Camp Sunrise for children with cancer.
Okay, back to the obscure Star Wars reference. With no rockfish in the money, our hopes hung on a fair-sized bluefish that had survived the first day in first place in the bluefish category.
We exited Sandy Point Marina on a magnificent autumn morning with an explosive collage of deep blues, fiery reds and brilliant oranges streaking the sky and not a breath of wind. As we searched for a generous shoreline to offer up both a keeper rockfish and the spot we'd need to live-line for that winning fish, I commented that this was a great day to throw a surface plug. Chuck, like Luke to the storm troopers, countered that no it wasn't, by which I think he meant it wouldn't catch a rockfish big enough to place. Or perhaps he was trying to dissuade me (in a good-natured way, of course) from choosing the same method he had.
At any rate, his skepticism didn't keep him from a tying on a homemade plug (a handsome lure made from mahogany and filled with rattles), which I now dub the Red Terror. As soon as I left the helm of VooDoo Cat to toss my chartreuse floating plug, I heard the tell-tale splash of the plug. Almost instantly, a tremendous crash erupted from the shallows, like a Titan submarine resurfacing from the icy depths. After a brief struggle, Chuck brought the fish boatside, and like the dutiful R2D2, I netted the beast.
As predicted, the healthy rockfish was not big enough to stack up against the leading fish of 33 inches, but it proved one thing: Go your gut and deflect the Jedi mind trick.
Fish are Biting
This is the time of year when many fly rodders and light tackle anglers excel on breaking fish in the open Bay and in shallow water, pitching Clousers and Deceivers (or any fly that imitates silverside and anchovies), surface plugs, soft plastics and other artificial lures. It is also a great time to explore on your own and search out new fishy spots in the rivers and creeks.
As water temperatures fall, the top water action increases. From Pooles Island south to Point No Point, many mixed schools of rock, blues and even Spanish mackerel - which are generally the first fish to exit the Bay - are breaking the surface in frenzied feeding. Many of the rockfish are under legal size. Sea trout action is heating up. The Eastern Bay, Bay Bridge area and the Patuxent quadrant are fair choices.
Live-lining spot is still a viable method for catching keeper rock, although in my experience the action is a lot slower now than in previous weeks. The Gas Docks is still holding fish but also attracts the biggest crowds. Chummers are reporting large numbers of sub-legal fish, and those that are over 18 inches range to 23 inches. Love Point, the Hill, the Gooses, the Stone Rock and the Diamonds are some of the places attracting the most anglers. Trollers working the 35- to 45-foot contour pick up a few rockfish greater than 28 inches, although the catch ratio is much less.