Whims of the Fishing Gods
Some days it’s just plain no; other days they give you a taste
Our rockfish outing began at 3am. It promised such success that I woke up at midnight from the anticipation. I had no problem being on time.
The stripers were there all right, just as expected. All morning our sonar marked so many big schools of big fish that the screen looked more like a light show than a fish finder. We were totally prepared with the best baits, the best equipment and experienced hands. Yet nothing worked. The fish never turned on. The trip was a bust.
The next well-planned foray, starting almost as early, wasn’t much better except at destroying what remained of my sleep patterns. I resolved to fish more comfortably, at least timewise. What then followed confirmed, yet again, a dark suspicion about the sport I love.
It was just a couple days later, after my first really good night’s rest. Going solo to keep it simple, I didn’t splash the skiff before 10am. The fish would probably be scattered by now, deep and in little mood to eat, but I went through the necessary motions.
It took me quite some time to catch enough perch for live-lining, even with keeping some that might have been too big. Heading out toward Sandy Point Light, I didn’t anticipate much success.
Coming up on plane and cruising comfortably on calm seas, almost immediately I spotted a large group of birds wheeling about to the north. Before I could arrive at their location, they had moved off another quarter mile. I eased on over toward them anyway.
Fish Are Biting
The fish are here, and they are biting. Rockfish, spot, perch, croaker and lately a few bluefish are gracing the ice chests of area anglers. This is proving another excellent year for stripers, with many schooling fish in the 30-inch class. Some recently arriving spot are also truly jumbo, with some measuring up to 12 inches. The crabs are good sized as well and moving nicely in our 80-degree water. Enjoy the summer; so far it’s been one of the Chesapeake’s finest.
The sun was so glaring that my fish finder screen was almost unreadable except for the depth number: 12 feet. That was way too shallow for rockfish with the sun so high. But noting the birds did not want to leave, I drifted up nearby, hooked a lively perch lightly in front of its dorsal and sent it on down.
The perch never had a chance. About 15 feet from the boat came the tick, tick, tick of my baitfish fleeing something below. Then the line accelerated so hard that it didn’t feel like a perch anymore. After a long five count, I threw the reel in gear and leaned back on the rod. Fish on.
It felt like a good one, and I played it carefully. I did not want to lose this fish, not having caught a striper in way too many days. At boat-side, it looked to be at least a seven-pounder as the fish rolled just out of reach, looked me in the eye and spit out the hook along with my mangled perch. Ouch!
But inside of 10 seconds, after putting on a fresh bait, I was hooked up again. It proved a twin of the first except that this rascal went first into my net, then into my cooler.
I continued to drift along with the tide, dropping another small perch over the side and apparently right into the mouth of yet another striper. After an extended and furious brawl, a 12-pounder joined its smaller brother in the ice chest. My slot limit inside 15 minutes: I couldn’t believe my good fortune.
Icing the Cake
Then, using circle hooks to be sure of healthy releases, I went through the rest of my supply of white perch with constant hookups. Striped bass were everywhere. The bigger my baitfish, the bigger the striper that ate it. Some of the fish I subsequently lost or released dwarfed those in my ice chest.
Finally, spent, out of perch, out of breath, arm-sore and still buzzing from the excitement, I collected my tackle and headed home. In the middle of a hot, sunny, summer day in shoal water that shouldn’t have held anything larger than a 10-inch perch, not 15 minutes from the launching ramp, I had had my best rockfish trip of the season.
Thus It Is
In the end, no matter what time you get up, how well you prepare, research the tides, pick the weather, select your baits and plan your day, the fish gods will have the last say. Some days it’s just plain no; other days they’ll give you a taste. Every once in a while, the gods decide: Go ahead, sport, have a ball. You deserve it.