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Volume 16, Issue 41 - October 9 - October 15, 2008
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Time-Traveling to Fishing Paradise

Fall can return you to the Chesapeake’s glory days

A blow-up is the violent surface strike of a fish that attacks but misses a top-water lure. This one was spectacular. My plug hung at the top of a three-foot plume of white water just flung up by a hungry striper. The lure’s orange-red belly sparkled an instant with early sun. Then the column of water collapsed.

The popper had hardly settled when the surface detonated again. Already tensed to the limit, my nerves screamed as I fought the impulse to strike, to set the hook into this devil. I waited … and waited, knowing that if I struck before I felt the fish, it would mean failure. But the pull of the striper didn’t come, and, worse, the water was so roiled I could no longer see my lure.

I teetered a long moment on the edge of angler panic; then my heart fell. The plug had reappeared, bobbing out at the edge of the strike’s cauldron. But in a second, the striped maniac was back, smashing at it again and yet again. I wondered if I really wanted to hook up with this demon. Finally, my line came tight.

I struck hard, then hit the fish again. My drag fed out gobs of line to the angry bass, and my casting rod bent double. Our skiff began to turn from the pull of the striper as it passed by on its escape run. Fleeing out into the Bay, it broached again and threw more water. I grinned as I heard Mike behind me: “That one’s putting on quite a show, isn’t it?”

Lady luck had definitely turned on for me. For more than two weeks I had been in rockfish famine. A legal-sized fish here and there, a couple of nice bluefish, but otherwise slim pickings. Now, suddenly, gangbusters. This was my sixth good striper of the morning, and it was still early.

Fish Are Biting

The good news in the Bay is that the bluefish are everywhere. The bad news is that bluefish are everywhere. If you’re a fan of the toothy critters you’re in heaven, but if stripers are your passion it may be a challenge to get a bait to them before it’s cut to ribbons by the slashing blues. The key seems to be locating fish holding suspended just off of the bottom, these should be rockfish. Get your baits to them promptly. If the blues show up, you’ll have to move off and find another group of stripers. Some schools of croakers have been reported still lingering in the mid-Bay, and good-sized perch are over deep shell bottoms unless of course the bluefish are chasing them as well.

As I struggled with the rowdy fish, I heard Mike grunt and at the edge of my vision saw his spin rod arc over in a hookup. The water along the shoreline rocks churned white as a second hefty rockfish made flank speed toward deeper water. We were in it big time. This was definitely the meat bucket, hog heaven, the honey hole.

When the action finally subsided and we headed for the ramp it was just 11am. We had counted coup and released over a dozen delightfully violent striped bass, lost at least four or five others to cut offs and spit hooks — as well as icing two limits of fat and healthy keepers. Your luck on the Chesapeake can improve awfully fast if you just keep at it.

Beating the Drum

Later that same day, an old friend called. Rip Deladrier, a fellow sporting fanatic, hopelessly addicted and totally dedicated to nobly fishing his life away, reported another tale of a great day. He and two friends had located a waterman who had fished a particularly long career among the barrier islands near the mouth of the Chesapeake

After a long boat ride that wandered through obscure cuts and inlets unnoted on any navigation chart, along channels marked by only a few barely visible tree branches and scrawny limbs, they arrived at a distant island that looked as if it hadn’t seen a footprint, beer can or throwaway bait cup for decades.

Unlimbering their surf sticks, the quartet had an incredible day of fishing from the beach. Using live peeler crabs, they hooked up with over a dozen red drum, several exceeding 40 inches, and also beached a number of black drum, many of which were in the smaller, gourmet sizes. The bite lasted the whole day.

Their guide described the trip as slightly above average. Rip characterized it as a virtual hallucination of the golden years long past in much of the Bay’s more accessible reaches.

Better news is that Rip asked the waterman if they could pass his name and number along so that other anglers could experience the outstanding day that they had had. He agreed.

If you don’t mind the five-hour drive to Oyster, Virginia, give Captain Jack Brady a call: 717-331-2111.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.