Volume XVII, Issue 15 - April 9 - April 15, 2009

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When the wind is from the east, they bite the least, but the wind from the west is always the best. If it’s blowing from the north, wise men do not go forth, but winds from the south blow the hook into the fish’s mouth.

A Week of Good Fishing

Seven rules — and one caveat — for predicting the bite

What’s the best time to go fishing?

Whenever you can.

But if you decide to pick your days for conditions that are more favorable than others, choosing correctly can enhance your chances of success.

1. If you can, pick a day when tidal current begins at first light or trails off at last light. Particularly on the Chesapeake’s main stem, the primary requirement for a good bite is current. Feeding predators prefer that their food come to them, and for that, a running tide is essential.

2. Avoid slack-tide periods, or anticipate that the bite will die during those times.

3. Check your tidal and current charts before deciding when to start your day and when to end it.

Yet charts don’t tell the whole story. They tend to be accurate, but they are drawn up assuming constant, windless days. How often does that happen? If a Nor’wester blows for a week, don’t look for high tide to be anywhere close to the printed schedule. When the wind finally dies, it will be some time before the tidal and current sequences reflect the printed charts once again.

4. Heavy rain cancels out any day that I have marked for an angling adventure. Some folks believe that fish bite better during a good downpour, but I am not among them. I have occasionally found action during an intermittent light rain or a drizzle, but downpours have resulted in miserable skunks just about every time I’ve tried.

The bite immediately after a hard rain doesn’t seem affected in the Bay, but in freshwater lakes, ponds and streams, fish get lockjaw for the next day or two. If you’ve planned a fresh-water outing and it rains the day before, it might be good to reschedule. Or change your venue to the Chesapeake.

5. Moon phase also plays a part in predicting optimum days. The new moon often means good fishing because the tides are greater. Whenever you have more water movement, you usually have better fishing.

The shallow-water bite is also superior during the new moon when an especially high tide comes near early morning or late afternoon. I have often found the dark of a new moon to be superior to any other phase for night fishing.

A full moon can turn a bite on during the spawn of many species. But otherwise I have experienced marginal luck during this phase. Some believe that the fish move and feed all night and aren’t active during the daytime. However, I have found that fishing the night of a full moon is not productive either. So go figure.

The neap tides (halfway between new and full) are reliable days, and good fishing would be more dependent on other conditions.

6. Remember the angler’s rhyme, “When the wind is from the east, they bite the least, but the wind from the west is always the best. If it’s blowing from the north, wise men do not go forth, but winds from the south blow the hook into the fish’s mouth.” The rhyme has no scientific basis that I have ever discovered. But it seems to be uncannily true.

7. Avoid days when there will be a fishing tournament or other intense boating activity in your area. Heavy water traffic is a bite killer for sound-sensitive rockfish, and it certainly won’t help in catching any other species. Give it a day or two to return to normal before you venture a sortie into that particular area.

Knowing these rules not only allows you to adjust your expectations. It also prepares you with any number of reasons why you didn’t catch anything.

Yet stories abound of great fish being caught during all the wrong conditions. Also consider that the best part of fishing is not so much about catching fish, which brings us back to our original premise: Fish whenever you can.

Fish Are Biting

Fishing for big rockfish at Sandy Point and Matapeake suddenly turned on a week or so ago. I checked out Sandy Point last Monday, and as I walked up to the northeast beach, Jason Martino of Northeast, Maryland, was beaching a 38-incher. It was his first time fishing the Point.

Be sure to use circle hooks when trying this catch-and-release fishery. Stripers are quick to swallow bait offerings, and this type of hook prevents most deep hooking. Half of all gut-hooked fish die within two hours.

Bay water temperatures are at the magic 50-degree mark, which means the Susquehanna Flats should start to produce giant stripers on flies and surface lures.

The yellow perch run is mostly done, but the whites are flocking to the headwaters of our tributaries. Trophy rockfish season opens April 19. It’s definitely fishin’ time.

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