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Volume 15, Issue 17 ~ April 26 - May 2, 2007

Trophy Time: Opening Day 2007

It’s official: Rockfish season is here and all is well

Winter is officially vanquished. No matter the chilling temperatures, gale winds or any other uncomfortable scenario Mother Nature has thrown at us in this endlessly unfolding and chilly April, rockfish season is here at last, and all is well.

The formal ceremony ending the past winter’s seemingly eternal grip on the Tidewater was hosted by Dick Franyo. One of the most sporting contests on the Chesapeake, the Boatyard Bar and Grill Annual Rockfish Catch and Release Tournament returns every year on opening day. A crowd of well over 400 exuberant sportsmen and sportswomen joined the festivities — this year at 100-year-old Sarles Boatyard in Eastport. A full field of 150 boats had been entered in the tournament. All during a comfortably warm and sunny afternoon, the standings board outside the event tent told the tale of close competition.

The official rockfish contest measurements in this no-kill tournament are established by delivering a digital photograph of the fish lying atop an official yardstick. Measuring sticks were distributed at the captains’ me

Fish Are Biting

The white perch run was interrupted by that howling nor’easter two weeks ago. Whether they will resume their activities remains to be seen as there have been few reports of any catching. In the meantime good-sized trophy rockfish are distributed randomly, but in good numbers throughout the mid-Bay. Croaker are still inching up the Chesapeake and may be here as early as May.

In freshwater, the largemouth bass bite has started up, and the bluegills should be on their spawning beds by the end of the week. This year’s fishing season is definitely on.

eting held the prior evening.

A 371⁄2-inch striper at 1pm was the first fish reported in. A few others in the high 30s followed. Not until almost 3pm was a 43-inch fish taken over the board.

Finally, just before the official closing at 4:30pm, when all the competitors had to be finally assembled, a giant 46-inch striper swept the field. It was landed near the gas docks above Solomons by Vince Gerrior on his boat The Senior V after an anxious 25-minute battle and a tense run back to the sign-in.

The fish themselves were absent (presumably still swimming) from final official measurement, but their images were held high among the thronging celebrants on countless cell-phone screens, Blackberries and digital cameras. Details of the many hookups and the subsequent battles could be overheard in every corner of the compound.

Tournament prizes overflowed the tables crowding the tent and were what every angler covets: more fishing equipment. Charlie Ebersberger of Anglers Sport Center, the principal presenting sponsor, as well as other local businesses had donated a rich trove of angling gear for the first five places.

The most coveted award was the grand prize: the winner’s name and a hand-painted image of the winning rockfish on the rafters of the Boatyard Bar and Grill, to remain there (as Franyo promised) at least 200 years.

All of the receipts from the tournament, which were at last count $25,000 and rising, were promised to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland Coastal Conservation Association and the Annapolis Police Department Youth Fishing Camp.

You couldn’t ask for a more auspicious and good-willed intro to Chesapeake summer.

Catching Your Own Trophy Rockfish

The best time to hook a really big rockfish in the Chesapeake is right now. The overwhelming majority — 75 percent — of the larger striped bass that populate the Atlantic Coast were born here. Most have migrated out of the Bay for a life in the ocean by the age of five.

They mature and grow large in the Atlantic, only briefly revisiting us each year in the spring to spawn in their natal waters.

The trophy season is scheduled by Department of Natural Resources to avail anglers of these larger migratory fish while minimizing the harvest of fish that have not yet spawned.

Two approaches are the most popular and effective for catching a trophy-sized fish: trolling and bait fishing. Because these fish are constantly on the move, they can best be encountered by presenting trolled lures to the travelers or tempting them with a cast of fresh bait as they pass.

Vince Gerrior’s opening day tourney winner this year weighed in at 53 pounds. It hit a single, eight-ounce, white Andrus Big Eye Parachute with a white nine-inch soft shad trailer, all trolled 175 feet back.

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