|The Old Man Gets the Fish
It's been said that dogs often fit both the physical characteristics and personalities of their owners, and I bet that translates to boats and their captains as well. There is one old fisherman I've seen on several occasions fishing the Bay Bridge waters who is the central case study for this thesis, as his looks match his boat perfectly.
His Chesapeake Bay deadrise is weather worn, like his face, and the edges of the nameless transom looks like they're barely clinging to the rest of the boat. The freeboard is chipped where it meets the washboards, like a delinquent went to work with an ax. The planks are in dire need of paint, so much, in fact, that I wouldn't be surprised if the last time the boat saw a fresh coat of paint was during the Nixon administration.
For the past several falls, when sea trout and rockfish bunch up to feed on the thick balls of anchovies and silversides, I've seen this solitary fisherman adroitly maneuver his ancient craft through the massive concrete pilings that support the Bay Bridge. His style is strictly old school: He runs his boat with one hand on the 'monkey stick.' a vertical, wooden steering stick, while the other hand steadily pulls on the 'one-armed bandit,' a single trolling rod fished with a single white bucktail.
In the last three years, October and November have been prime time for sea trout fishing on the Chesapeake, thanks in part to effective management and conservation measures begun in the early 1990s. The changes included requiring larger mesh sizes for offshore trawlers to allow juvenile sea trout to escape their deadly grasp, which meant more fish migrating to our Bay.
On a recent morning, the old man shared with Willy Agee and me a school of sea trout hanging tight to the bottom in about 50 feet of water. We bounced chartreuse feather jigs off the bottom in hopes of hooking up with a big sea trout, and - though the screen was blotted out with fish - most of them seemed in the 12- to 16-inch range. As we crossed bows, the old man called over to us.
"Did ya see the one I just pulled up?" he yelled. We shook our heads, so he hoisted his fat sea trout that I'd bet pushed 10 pounds.
"Ya gotta git it to the bottom. They're huggin' the bottom! Big 'uns, too!" he called as his voice trailed off. We took his advice and ended up catching a few fair trout, though not even close to his beauty. Just goes to prove looks can be deceiving.
Fish are Biting
The big fishing story again this week is sea trout. Cold nights have the trout schooling in tighter bunches, which bodes well for fishermen. Anglers from Eastern Bay past Hoopers Island are reporting good catches of sea trout and can be found in water depths of 45 to 80 feet. Top-water rockfish action has kept light tackle and fly anglers entertained, though most of the stripers are undersized.
Chummers are still scoring at the Stone Rock, Diamonds and Gas Docks. The larger class of rockfish are on their way out of the Bay, which will make the trollers happy and might be the better bet for larger fish for the last weeks of the season. The Gooses, False Channel and the eastern edge of the shipping channel as well as Buoy 72 are decent bets.
Don't forget about the white perch, which are still in the rivers and on the oyster bars of main stem but have started to move to their winter haunts.