Wind Blew Off Our Record
If a shred of doubt still existed whether wind is a fishermans nemesis, it was blown away last Saturday by the heavy winds that roared down the Bay.
When we left Sandy Point Marina before dawn to take part in the 7th Annual Val Eschleman Rockfish Open, a northerly breeze pushed the waves to better than two feet. By the time we returned at dusk, waves averaged better than four feet.
The usual suspects Paul Willey and Chuck Foster joined me in our quest to keep the streak of placing in the tournament intact. Theyve fished the tournament together since its inception (I came on board in 1999), and Chuck holds the tournament record for rockfish at nearly 36 inches. But fishing out of a 20-foot center console, albeit a catamaran, with a howling wind hurt us bad. Our strategy of live-lining spot in a chum slick was washed away like the debris cascading from the Susquehanna Flats.
Like wayward nomads, we circumnavigated Kent Island and explored Eastern Bay and the Chester River in search of fish. This is what we told ourselves, but in reality we were on a quest to get out of the weather. We finally caught a few fish, including a fat hickory shad, but nothing that would put us in the money.
But as it turned out, the weather had shackled other anglers as well, and only 15 fish were checked in. So as a thank-you to those diehards, everyone who checked in a fish won a prize. To add insult to injury in our tale of woe, we had caught a few decent bluefish that would have earned some mention.
Hosted by Kentmorr Harbor, the tournament is named for Val Eshleman, the former general manager of the marina who died in October 1994 in a tragic boatyard accident. The tournament, run by the foundation that bears his name, donates the monies to Camp Sunrise, a place of peace and understanding for kids with cancer. To date, more than $50,000 has been raised for the camp. According to foundation treasurer Chris Thompson, we still raised a fair bit of money even though the weather didnt cooperate.
I didnt know Val, but I went to school with his younger sister, Jamie. Most of the anglers who participate have some similar connection. This sense of community, which is growing throughout the country in the wake of the September 11 attacks, has always existed at this tournament. Val loved to fish and loved helping people, and this tournament celebrates his generosity and compassion.
Fish Are Biting
Talking last week with Capt. Richie Gaines, a light-tackle and fly-fishing guide based on Kent Island, I got the sense that he was as excited as I was about the cooler temperatures that has triggered top water action.
Stripers are roaming the shallows in search of baitfish, and schools of breaking fish are a regular occurrence from the mouth of the Choptank River all the way up to the mouth of the Patapsco River, said Gaines.
We caught some nice trout last week near the Bay Bridges, but the weakies have yet to school up in large numbers. Anglers chumming with menhaden and baiting with razor clams or crab at Podickory Point, Love and Swan Points, at the mouth of the Chester River and at the Hill are scoring legal fish consistently.
Farther south, trollers from Breezy Point past Parkers Creek are catching a larger class of rockfish but fewer of them. Flounder fishing is on the wane, and croakers are all but gone. Nice white perch abound, however, on shell bottom, pilings and other structure.