Volume 16, Issue 31 - July 31 - August 6, 2008

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The Kids are Alright

Fishing on the Bay can lure anyone from a video game

I stifled a proper-technique lecture as my 15-year-old, Rob, casually worked a top-water plug almost back to the boat. Then the lure disappeared in an explosion of water. His eyes grew easily a size or two larger as a very irritated five-pound striper tore up the surface at the end of his line.

Maybe his drag was set a bit tight, but everything held together as he wrestled with the fish in as spectacular a surface battle as I’ve seen in quite a while.

Fumbling with the net, I offered a lot of largely unheard advice while the rowdy and muscular rockfish lunged out repeatedly, throwing water everywhere. Rob did his best to deny it escape.

Eventually the fish and the boy reached settlement: The fish gave up. Quickly netting the rascal before it got a second wind, I was as elated as my son at the conquest.

“Wow! What a fish. Man was that exciting, this is a great trip. Did you see that?” The words were tripping off his lips. I suppressed a now, wasn’t that better than a video game lecture and agreed that, yes, it was a most excellent battle.

Fish Are Biting

It’s been a hot, dry spell of late, but the calm winds have made Bay waters particularly accessible to fishermen. Rockfish schools are numerous and cooperative, with larger fish unusually common. Live-lining is the trick for good-sized stripers, but chummers are scoring as well, though there are lots of throwbacks. Big perch and spot are staying deep over shell bottom, but slightly smaller fish are teeming near shallow-water structures such as riprap, jetties and piers. Bluefish are still tiny in the mid-Bay but larger and more numerous southward. Croaker are available from the Bay Bridge south and eating bloodworms and shrimp in the evenings for persistent anglers. Crabbing is difficult in some places, better in others. The key is avoiding the crowds.

Onto Other Battles

At the start of the day I had entertained, once again, the hope that the lure of outdoor adventure would eventually replace the couch and controller affliction he shares with his generation. This was a particularly good start.

Next we threw small spinners on ultra-light rods along the nearby rock jetties in search of live-lining bait, the second part of our plan. Catching the bait is often as enjoyable as fishing for the big stuff, and this time was no exception. We had so much fun acquiring our dozen, perfect-sized spot and perch that we were a good half-hour late departing for the rockfish grounds.

Starting at the Baltimore Light, we zigzagged south across the channel edges. I had one eye glued to the sonar watching for fish marks, the other on the horizon for feeding birds. I began to get uneasy: The waters appeared empty.

Finally as the Bay Bridge came into sight, so did a clue. It wasn’t birds or fish marks that caught my eye but a tight knot of fishing boats off of Sandy Point.

We headed for the fleet to investigate. Dropping off of plane about a quartermile outside the compact group of boats, I scanned my fish-finder. We needn’t have worried about intruding: The rockfish were everywhere.

Rob dropped over a lively spot, and I put out a perch. But the tide had just ebbed, and the noticeable lack of water movement did not bode well for feeding fish. I warned my son that we would have to wait for a bit.

When I glanced over to see if Rob had absorbed my warning, he was already struggling with a straining rod. The heavy drag setting that I had regretted on the first striper hardly slowed this fish down. It was a big one.

The bass made a number of long and heart-stopping runs. But eventually youth, persistence and a deep hook set triumphed. The fat, bright, 12-pounder barely fit in our cooler. Chalk up one more for the kid.

I managed one nice keeper myself before the bite died, and we headed back to the dock for a late lunch and some eager fish cleaning.

Later that evening, I overheard my son make plans to take the boat out on his own (he’s had a Maryland Boating Certificate since he was 12). Apparently he intends to introduce some of his friends to the adventure.

I‘m betting that if the bite holds, the video games won’t quite compare.

Congratulations also to eight- and nine-year-old Nathan and Cameron Urlock of Cape St. Claire for the fine five-pound catfish that Nathan landed on very light tackle in the Little Magothy Inlet July 26.

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