by C.D. Dollar
On the Trail of the Hounds
Easing back on the throttle, we spied a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins playing along the deep edge of the Poquoson Flats, the Bays major underwater grass meadow, spanning several hundred acres. Gazing across its vastness, its hard to believe pollution has driven the Chesapeakes overall acreage of this prime habitat down 30 percent from its historic range.
Out of gear, the boat drifted silently past them. Three fishermen from three generations aboard my Jones Brothers center console, HuckFinn, marveled at these small-toothed whales. So did I, though I wasnt as enthusiastic since their presence meant the houndfish were most likely laying low.
For the third straight year, houndfish have been a curious obsession for me, and to a slightly lesser degree, to my Virginia partner in fishing and beer, Dean Bieri. Hes to blame for my addiction to what he calls Poquoson Marlin, a moniker given for houndfishs propensity to launch their elongated bodies skyward like the pelagic billfish found off our Atlantic Coast.
When the dolphin moved on, swirls and explosions told us to start casting. The hounds aggression increased as the sun climbed higher on its track, and they chased the shiny spoons with the speed of greyhounds. Lightning-quick, they attacked the lures with their narrow beaks, tossing them out of the water.
Unlike previous years, this time it wasnt easy to hook them, as the youngest of the three anglers (age 13) could attest. The lad had many strikes and a few brief hook-ups but no landings. His grand-dad, however, proved that experience counts (it was his second trip), boating several of the toothy critters, which were quickly and carefully released.
The voracious aquatic pack dogs preferred quarter-ounce Hopkins spoons dressed with white or chartreuse bucktail and flash material. Houndfish are bony and not popular table fare, so I replace the treble hooks with a single stainless steel, long-shanked hook to aid release.
Despite my good-hearted attempt to make life easier on them, hounds are about as docile as fifth graders at Disney Land. Like last year, one rambunctious fish tried to exact its revenge, rocketing out of the water directly at me with teeth bared. You bet I flinched! In spite of its small size, rows of razor-like teeth tearing toward your face have that effect.
But no doubt Ill be back again next year to suffer more rude behavior.
Fish Are Biting
Last weekend was Fathers Day, a great occassion to introduce your kids or dad to fishing. While fishing, my dad and I found common ground and enjoyed many good times.
The chumming bite off Love Point in about 27 to 36 feet of water on shell bottom has taken off. Also, DNRs Keith Lockwood reports the lower Bays Triangle offers good diversity: rockfish, bluefish and flounder. Sporadic breaking schools of rock and blues are mawing anchovies and baby bunker from Point Lookout to Patuxent River.