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Volume xviii, Issue 2 ~ January 14 - January 20, 2010

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Angler Alert

January 14-17, catch the 26th Annual Fishing Expo and Boat Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, Timonium: $8 w/age discounts:

In Season

Goose and duck hunting continues in season until the end of January as does bow season for whitetail and Sika deer. Squirrel and rabbit season remains open until February 27. The firearms season for deer is now closed. The resident Canada goose season (in specified areas only) stays open until March 6:

Thou Shall Not Poach

For the first time, DNR has used its authority to suspend commercial fishing licenses. For “wanton abuse of the law,” William Beck, 43, of Rock Hall has had his license to harvest oysters suspended for the remainder of the oyster season (it runs until March 31). Beck was charged twice within one week in late December with oyster poaching. Within the last five years, Beck has had five other convictions for commercial poaching, including rockfish gill-net violations and illegal crabbing. The governor’s office announced this action as a serious remedy.

When It’s Too Cold to Fish, Shop

Catalogs and shows put the bait too close to resist

Committing to put up my boat for the winter is difficult. Past winters always brought a few late warm spells when I could squeeze in one more trip on the Chesapeake. Frequently I never got to winterize because the springtime yellow perch would start before I had stopped chasing white perch and pickerel.

Utilizing an extended lip that makes the plug dive, surge and wriggle like struggling baitfish, crank baits come in every size, shape and color imaginable.

Not this year. I managed some successful trips up to the middle of December. Angling ended with the arrival of unusually frigid temperatures and howling winter winds. Within a week, two feet of snow sealed the deal. My skiff has been under wraps ever since, cornered in my drive by a fresh load of stacked firewood. It does not look like the boat is coming out any time soon.

Sulking and thinking of warmer climes, I tried plotting a few days of Florida fishing. No luck there, either. They’re having their own extended spate of frigid winter.

Reluctantly I began the cold weather chores I regularly advise. I rinsed off my salty flies, plugs, jigs and spoons, replaced hooks with any trace of rust, rinsed out my lure boxes and reorganized my equipment. Then I sulked some more.

Finally I decided to try to accept the inevitable. Fishing is done until February at the earliest; perhaps longer. Then I remembered my old mantra: The next best thing to fishing is buying fishing stuff.


Tackle catalogs have been arriving for weeks from all the major outfitters. Spam has begun to flood my e-mail queue with fresh sales and the latest lures from every angling website that I’ve ever visited. The largest fishing and boat expo on the East Coast is coming to the Maryland State Fairgrounds this week.

I considered all the strategies that went unexplored because I lacked the right tackle. Like when the rockfish were stacked suspended all along the channel edges near Podickery, off of Hackett’s, in the Eastern Bay and around the Bay Bridge in early June.

The fish could be coaxed into taking a live-lined perch or spot, but the opportunity was ideal to cast a deep-diving plug or crank bait that imitated these baitfish. Except I didn’t have anything like that last season.

Crank baits are a largemouth bass staple with a deadly history in fresh water. Utilizing an extended lip that makes the plug dive, surge and wriggle like struggling baitfish, they come in every size, shape and color imaginable. Some uncannily resemble a white perch, and still others come close to mimicking a Norfolk spot.

Substituting saltwater trebles on these rascals is the only conversion needed for the largemouth’s closest cousin on the Chesapeake, the striped bass. It will be interesting to see if some of these plugs work as well on deep-water rockfish as I anticipate.

New, soft swim baits are another that could prove interesting. Largemouth anglers — consistently ahead of the curve on most new lure and tackle innovations — have recently become enamored with extra large versions of this lure for extra large fish.

These are big, soft plastic baits with extremely lifelike action and a sturdy variable weighted hook concealed in the body. They can be worked through weeds, rocks, downed timber and other cluttered structures that are impossible to work with conventional lures.

I could do with a new tackle bag, too. For the longest time I have used canvas carpenter tool satchels. They are simple, inexpensive and suit my purposes much better than the complicated hard plastic, multi-drawered affairs.

Now the tackle companies have begun to produce soft-sided packs similar to my tool bags. Some have one additional and important feature: They are waterproof. Having to empty and dry out drenched canvas satchels is one chore I can now eliminate.

These thoughts have given me new energy and direction and banished my melancholy. By the time the winter freeze melts into early spring, I should have paid off enough of my new tackle debt to afford to go fishing.

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