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Volume XVII, Issue 48 ~ November 26 - December 2, 2009

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Fish are Biting

The cold weather bite is peaking. Trolling and deep jigging are scoring big rockfish from the Patapsco along the Baltimore Channel to the pilings and rock piles of the Bay Bridge. The mouth of the Chester is producing great fish, and the Eastern Bay is just as good. Nice perch mixed in with medium-sized rock are available at the Bridge to anglers dropping trout bombs with teasers or bloodworms or both. Anglers trolling out of Breezy Point are just hammering giant rockfish, with fish under 40 inches hardly worth mentioning. We’ve got until December 15 for stripers. Don’t waste a day.

In Season

Waterfowl season is underway with excellent bags of both Canada Geese and a variety of ducks being reported. Rabbit, grouse and quail are now in season as well. Bow-hunters are hard after whitetails and squirrel.

Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again?

Human habits have changed, but fish habits haven’t

We finally launched at about 8:30 that night, though the dark of a new moon made getting underway a challenge. Then a predicted soft northerly breeze shifted into the east and became colder and much stiffer than promised. In November that is not a surprise.

Pulling our foul-weather coats tight and snugging down our caps, we cruised out toward the bridge. It was a short run, and as we anchored and set up, we tried not to break anything in the blackness.

There were two fly rods, half rigged and lying on the casting decks of my small skiff. Our flies and leaders, tucked away in the soft bags accompanying a nighttime fly-fishing jaunt, were proving difficult to find. We were out of practice.

In years past, partner George Yu and I could have done this blindfolded and with one hand, so accustomed to the drill we were. Nighttime fly-fishing under bridge lights had once been our specialty.

The two of us could be found, sometimes three nights a week, in a small boat lurking under one spooky, deserted, skeletal bridge structure or another, traffic overhead, condensation dripping down and truck exhaust noises echoing hard in the nighttime air.

There also were the splashes of feeding fish. We had discovered that striped bass loved to visit the lighted water under bridge structures in the wee hours. They were dining on the small baitfish being pulled along by the current and disoriented as they hit the bright bridge lights.

Back then, you couldn’t keep rockfish at night. Hence our activities were all catch and release, but we didn’t mind. Because of that fishing regulation, we almost always had the structures to ourselves with as many fish as we could play with. Imitating the small bait being devoured by the stripers was easily done with a fly rod, and we had experienced some incredible fishing.

But our careers began to make new demands on our time and then, finally, the regulations changed. When it became legal to keep stripers up until midnight, our solitary adventures ended.

Our old honey holes were suddenly choked with bass boats, johnboats, skiffs and even cabin cruisers as after-dark fishing armadas overwhelmed the lighted bridge waters. The word had spread that after dark there were easy pickings.

The larger stripers became ever scarcer, and most all of the bridge waters were crowded after dark. Eventually our once-frequent nighttime fishing sorties ended.

Home Again

Last week however, we decided to try it again, just for old times’ sake. Even with November’s chill, other boats were already anchored up and fishing. The only spot available was a darkened area under an inoperable bridge light. Knowing it for a poor option, we tried anyway.

Luck was with us. Within a short time, we scored three or four fish just under keeper size and had missed a few more. The tide was moving briskly under the bridge, and the current speed made those fish pull at least twice their measured length when we battled them to boat side.

As we hooked and released rock and re-rigged our gear in the dark, our movements gradually reverted to the older, comfortable rhythms of long ago. Reminiscing, we grew optimistic about the evening.

Then, with the evening hardly underway, the other boats under the bridge began pulling out. Relocating to what, long ago, had been one of our favorite spots, I was not certain, at first, that we had made a move for the better. We had not seen the boat that had left there catch a fish. But within minutes, our long rods were again bent double.

The stripers at this section proved to be more numerous and much larger than those in the area we had left behind. Soon in the heat of this new bite and the isolation of the nighttime, it seemed eerily as if we had been transported back years in time.

Our bite ended late, and then only because, having iced down four of the larger fish, we had to get off the water before midnight. On the drive home, while detailing the meal that we planned for our bounty, we resolved to return again soon.

We would try to pick another nasty night, maybe after midnight when it would be catch-and-release only, maybe with some light rain and a bit more wind. We wanted the bridge to ourselves again, just like the times we remembered.

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