Volume 14, Issue 34 ~ August 24 - August 30, 2006

The Sporting Life
by Dennis Doyle

Fighting the Lure of Video Games, Skateboarding and Newfound Friends

Teenagers are like fish; sometimes they bite

The reel spool started to turn quietly, and in the twilight it took a second or two for me to note the movement. I watched it intently. It slowed for just a beat. Then the line began to make a hissing sound as it accelerated through the guides. My alert level moved into the red zone.

I spoke quietly to my young teenage son, who had been concentrating on getting the last Trail Mix Bar out of its wrapper. “Hey Robert, it’s a run. Do you want it?”

“Sure,” he replied, not nearly so quietly, and reached up to take the rod out of the holder. I cautioned him to let the fish take the bait. But shortly he could stand it no longer, threw the reel into gear and poised the rod. I crossed my fingers.

We had been live-lining small perch for only about 20 minutes just inside the mouth of a local river, but evening had already fallen. It had taken us longer than anticipated to catch a sufficient supply of small perch from nearby jetties, and now we were trying to concentrate on the good stuff — getting a striped bass to eat one of our perch. Apparently it was happening.

At first the line just came taut, and for a second I feared the fish had dropped the bait. Then something jerked the rod tip down, and Rob hauled back. The battle was on.

“It’s not going to spit the perch out is it?” he asked after the first strong run, as the fish started a big half circle.

“Naw, he’s got it good,” I said. But I knew of more than a few that had given me the slip by doing just that. I said a small prayer.

Long minutes later Robert had worked it nearer, and we could see by the heavy surges of water when it surfaced that it was a good fish. The fight went on. Twice, then three times, Robert got it almost close enough for my net, but each time it moved off against the drag. This was getting a little too tense.

At last Robert got its head up as it neared the boat, and I got the net just right. He was ours. It was definitely a nice fish, about 22 or 23 inches, its brightly striped body glistening in the anchor light that now softly illuminated our boat.

It had been a while since Robert and I had been on a fishing trip together, though I had been trying to get him out. The lure of video games, skateboarding and newfound friends had occupied his time much of the summer. But then he decided he needed to go fishing. I hastened to accommodate him.

Not This Fish, But the Next One

We both admired the fish as I removed it from the folds of the net, but something wasn’t right. Just above the anal fin was a large and unmistakable crimson stain reaching almost to its tail. It had a bacterial infection. Not good. Not good at all.

“Robert, this fish has got to go back, it’s got a skin infection,” I told him.

He wanted to keep it anyway, but when I asked if he thought he would eat it, he relented.

“There’s a good chance that when the colder weather comes, the sores will heal and the fish will become healthy again.” I explained.

“Yeah, he’ll be even bigger next year,” my son replied.

I got one quick picture before Rob eased the fish over the side and sent it on its way. Then we both rinsed and wiped our hands. We swam a few more baits out as our fish finder purred with good-looking marks. But they had stopped eating.

Then the wind picked up, and the tide started to slack. We pulled out a short while later. On the cruise back to the dock, my son recounted his exploits in picking up our perch supply as well as catching the only rockfish. He had landed two or three fish to each of mine, and he obviously enjoyed recounting the superior skill involved. I agreed wholeheartedly.

The next evening Robert cajoled my wife into accompanying him in our double kayak to a nearby creek. He was intent on laying in a supply of nice-sized, live perch so that we won’t have to waste so much time when we go out for another try at a rockfish. He is suddenly possessed with getting a big one that he can keep. I plan to be there.

Learn Light Tackle from Doyle

Sporting Life columnist Dennis Doyle teaches Light-Tackle Fishing on the Chesapeake — covering spinning, plug casting and fly fishing techniques, knots, rigs, lures, finding fish, fighting fish and related subjects — for beginning to intermediate anglers. September 16 at Anne Arundel Community College. Register for class AHC318: 410-777-2325.

Fish Are Biting

Rockfish remain fickle but are beginning to show up evenings and early mornings in the tributaries. Casting and trolling soft-baits are producing best.

Jumbo spot have finally arrived, and perch continue on the bite. Snapper bluefish are scooting around on both shores and are having a good time biting off the tails of the trolled soft-baits. Spanish mackerel continue on their way up the Bay. They should arrive here soon.

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