Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
1629 Forest Drive, Annapolis, MD 21403 ~ 410-626-9888
Volume xviii, Issue 17 ~ Apri 29 to May 5, 2010
My maiden voyage with the boat did not unfold without problems. It had been a dozen years, at least, since I last paddled a canoe, so I hadn’t planned on doing much the first time out other than re-acquainting myself with the basics.
I had brought along a light spin rod, but I didn’t have high hopes for catching. The white perch run had been over for a while, though I suspected a pickerel or two might still be cruising for any upriver stragglers.
It was a beautiful, early morning, and already a warm sun had dissipated the previous evening’s chill. Crew for the first outing was my loyal first mate, Sophie, a German shorthair who is happy to go just about anywhere with me without complaint.
Sliding the light and elegant 14-footer to the edge of the water, I arranged my paddle, the rod, a small anchor, life preserver and tackle bag aft. Sophie settled herself amidship, and we set out confidently from the small beach.
All went well for the first 75 feet, at which time our craft cleared the first point of land, exposing us to a brisk upriver breeze. The canoe’s bow, sitting high because of the way I had loaded the boat, caught the wind and swung smartly around just as Sophie, detecting the scent of something interesting in the freshened air, lurched to the side for a better sniff. Ohhh!
Luckily, the canoe had great secondary stability. The unexpected heel and change in direction had caused me only a brief instant of panic. But the thought of capsizing, less than a minute from launch, brought the flush of embarrassment.
I attempted to casually J-stroke the canoe back on course, but it didn’t work. The new wind frustrated my every move.
Finally abandoning the effort as futile, I took the new craft back to the beach. Adjustments were in order. I moved Sophie farther forward, rearranged my tackle and gear away from under foot and tried again.
This time, with the bow lower and no longer a wind sail, my foot position unencumbered and paddling leverage improved, we made much better progress. The narrower beam up forward also limited Sophie‘s movements, so my first mate could lean and sniff to her heart’s content without upsetting our stability. I relaxed and resumed relearning my paddle strokes.
The acquisition of this noble craft was not a planned event. It happened on an impulse prompted by some recent surgery. Doctor’s orders forbade me any form of strenuous lifting or physical activity for eight weeks. That had resulted in far too many shore-bound days. Life was not good for me and didn’t look to get better anytime soon.
Then one afternoon, as I was whiling away my down time by browsing the boats for sale section of Craigslist, inspiration struck me. Overnight, and for a modest sum, I assumed ownership of a used, lightweight and handsome 14-foot Old Town Canoe in dark green.
My wife, God bless her, tried to ignore its sudden presence among the other four boats that cluttered our yard while I assured her that I intended to promptly move the new acquisition to a spot on our community’s dinghy rack.
Furthermore, I continued, its light weight would not violate my doctor’s prohibition on lifting heavy objects. I would merely be dragging the craft a short distance to the water, not lifting it. And paddling, I added, would hardly prove strenuous along our sheltered coves.
I was pleased that first day out as Sophie and I cruised easily along while I cast, uneventfully as it turned out, to likely looking piers and points and observed the local wildlife. Though I caught as little as I had expected, other thoughts began to form in my head as we moved along.
While the canoe was obviously perfect for shallow-water fishing for perch and pickerel, the craft should, I thought, also prove ideal for some light crabbing. I had long ago perfected a standard operation for trot lining, but it took a lot of effort and preparation and my powered skiff. That was great for securing a bushel or more of crabs, but if I wanted only half that or less, the trotline was overkill.
Crabbing with a canoe and a dozen ring traps would take virtually no prep at all. I could be on the water within 15 minutes of the decision to go. The easily maneuverable canoe would also be ideal for stealthily visiting the numerous nearby pilings and piers for some quiet morning crab-dipping with a small, long-handled net.
I no longer felt handicapped by my recent infirmity as I realized I was discovering new opportunity. When one door closes, do not despair, for others will assuredly open. That maxim was proving true for me and my new canoe.
Trophy season for rockfish started out well despite the windy weather, and the bite continues to be excellent, especially along the Western Shore, indicating the fish are already on their way out. Spawning rock tend to migrate up the Bay on the Eastern Shore side and exit on the Western side.
White perch are being caught in the deeper water of the tributaries, but the spawn is well over now. Croaker have shown up to the south at Point Lookout and Crisfield, but it will be some time before they reach our area. The Susquehanna Flats has warmed up and come alive with big rockfish slamming surface baits in four to six feet of water. The Flats is catch-and-release only until May 3; catch-and-keep begins May 16. Largemouth bass and bluegills are on their spawning beds and attacking anything that comes near. Crappie are schooling near structures and are taking minnows.
Spring turkey season for gobblers remains open only through May 24.
Yours truly teaches Light-Tackle Fishing the Chesapeake for beginning to intermediate students on Saturday, May 15. Register for AHC-318 at 410-777-2325 or www.aacc.edu/coned.
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