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Volume xviii, Issue 3 ~ January 21 - January 27, 2010

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Fish Are Biting

It may be too early to be looking for a yellow perch run in the mid-Bay, but maybe not. The upper reaches of the Choptank, Wye and the Tuckahoe are places to search, as are the headwaters of the South River. Higher in the Bay near the Susquehanna, there are reports of fine limits of yellows already being caught the past few weeks. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is producing wintering rockfish giants for those making the trek.

In Season

Get your licks in on your favorite waterfowl and big game now, as most seasons will wind down at the end of January. Small game (rabbit and squirrel) continues to the end of February, quail till February 15 and snow geese have a special season from February thru the end of March. Snow goose populations have exploded the last few years, endangering their breeding grounds. A serious effort is needed to control their numbers before they suffer a population collapse from their own environmental depredation.

Speak Up!

John Griffin, Secretary of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is set to sign a regulation allowing a gross increase in the allowable length of commercial gill nets. There is no logical basis for this indulgent concession to demands of commercial fishermen. Female rockfish being harvested during the netting season, which runs to the end of February, are full of roe and preparing to spawn. Recently commercial fishermen complained mightily that catch-and-release fishing by recreational anglers was harming the potential spawning activities of rockfish. It’s an ugly contradiction that they don’t apply that same logic to a net a mile long that kills tons of egg-bearing fish daily. Voice your opinion at 410-260-8101.

Dressing for Success

The art of angling is in the detail

Wintertime is downtime for most anglers. But in waiting out the bitter weather, you can do a number of things to increase your success in the season to come. One of them is dressing up your favorite plug, spoon or metal jig.

Dressing a lure means adding feathers, bucktail, synthetic hair or flashy filament to the trailing hook of the bait. Since that hook generally swings free with the action of the lure, dressing magnifies the movement and provides a second focus for the gamefish and, more importantly, a trigger to their strike response.

Wave a shiny object in front of a tabby cat, and it immediately becomes interested. Add a brightly colored bunch of feathers or hair (minus the hook, thank you) swinging at the end of that shiny object, and you had better mind your fingers.

You will find that upon seeing that additional, animated attraction, our gentle tabby launches itself, claws extended, to capture the fascinating tidbit. Rockfish will attack like that as well.

Today, especially in our mid-Bay with all of the fishing pressure of our area’s numerous anglers, showing the fish a lure with a little extra attraction can mean the difference between a limit and a skunk. Or between hooking the dinks or nailing the lunker.

Dressing Your Lure

There are two ways to dress up a lure to provide that extra attraction. One is to purchase a dressed hook and use it to replace the bait’s trailing treble. Dressed trebles are sold at most sports stores and better mail order houses.

Google dressed saltwater treble, and you will get thousands of hits on sources and information. But beware: Depending on the quality of the hook used, they can be expensive, especially if you have a number of lures you intend to improve.

The second way is more interesting and less expensive. Make the dressings yourself on the hooks already on the lure. With minimal equipment you can create your own dressed trebles with your own unique and attractive teaser— and you can do it cheaply.

Tying materials are inexpensive at most of the same stores that handled the dressed trebles or at locations handling fly-tying materials. The feathers, generally listed as saltwater saddle hackle, are available in more colors than you ever thought possible. But white, yellow or chartreuse will do the job nicely.

Buy them in bulk packages of a quarter-ounce, and you will have enough for a long season and lots of lures. You will also need thread, head cement or clear nail polish (Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails is excellent) and a tying bobbin. Danville’s Flat Waxed Nylon is a strong, durable and commonly available thread that I recommend for this application. Buy red, white or black.

The tying bobbin holds the thread and makes wrapping on the feathers much simpler. The head cement seals the thread wraps and protects them. All of these items can be had quite inexpensively.

The last thing you need is a hook holder or hook vise. These are available the same places that provide the hooks, thread and bobbin. Or you can also improvise your own. A pair of vise grip pliers will also do the job, perhaps not as prettily as the custom vise.

Step by Step

Remove the hook from the lure (a split ring pliers can help here). Clamp it in the vise at the hook bend with the hook shank parallel to the ground. Cut two hackle feathers so they are at least twice the length of the hook. Placing them together along the hook shank, and using the thread and bobbin, wrap in the feather butts close to the hook’s eye so that the tips trail out between two hooks of the treble.

Do that for each of the three gaps. Finish wrapping off the head formed by the thread so that it is compact and even. Then thoroughly apply head cement or nail polish to the wrap. Give it two coats, let dry, and you’re ready to reattach the dressed hook onto your lure of choice.

Whatever success you had with this bait in previous seasons will be amplified by the extra attraction this dressing provides. Plus you’ll have a bit of your own handiwork at play at little cost and effort. For now, it’s a great way to while away a cold winter evening.

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