Chesapeake Outdoors

by C.D. Dollar

In a world where speed is often more desirable and admired than substance, the natural world is ignored in haste. Last weekend, fate forced me to slow down, and I was rewarded with an hour-long display of springtime vitality.

(I missed fishing the opening weekend of the 1998 Spring rockfish season because a bad fuel pump kept VooDoo Child at the dock. But it could have been worse: I could have been off Bloody Point or working the ship channel near Tilghman and had the pump fail on me.)

Instead of dragging bunker spoons and parachutes behind my boat Saturday morning, I was sitting with my mother and her husband on their deck that overlooks a marsh pond that feeds into Black Walnut Creek on Annapolis Neck peninsula.

Giant carp, many easily over two foot long, were everywhere and they weren't too concerned about who knew it. (Carp belong to the largest family of fishes in the world, which includes minnows and shiners.) Thrashing about wildly, they boiled the water. The fish seemed to be nesting or spawning or both.

The carp would move through the skinny water, dorsal fin exposed, then inexplicably to me at least, charge a pod of marsh as if it were a mortal enemy. Not nearly as obtrusive as the carp were red-winged blackbirds balancing on stalks of cattails and Canada geese paddling amid the fray.

A pair of osprey, maybe drawn from open water by the carp's commotion, circled patiently, waiting for the right opportunity to attack. Laughing at the prospect of a 30-inch fish dangling from the osprey's talons, we wondered if the carp's vulnerability would be too much for the fish hawks to resist. Shortly one of the osprey dropped from the sky like a comet, smacked the shallow water, then slowly gained altitude with its prize - a fat white perch - secured in a death grip.

There was no interruption in the carp's routine, and most of the other animals - I soon among them - went about their business as well.


Fish Are Biting

With rockfish season comes another wonderful chance to feel the unfettered aggression of rockfish fighting at the end of your line. Here's what's happening around the Bay:

According to DNR, charter captains' and recreational anglers' reports, the 1998 rockfish season is off to a great start; perhaps the new 28-inch minimum means more keepers. Trolled large parachutes, umbrella rigs, bucktails and spoons in chartreuse, silver and white are lethal baits. Many of the rockfish are scattered, and it pays to heed the creed of many savvy trollers: big lures take big fish.

Since opening day, fishermen working the eastern edge of the main channel have taken some large rockfish. (DNR volunteer surveys indicate the area from Parkers Creek to Cove Point has produced the best numbers of large fish over the past two years, with the western side of the main channel out-producing the eastern side.)

Most catches reported to me were below the Bay Bridges, but I have heard that the mouth of the Magothy River and Brewerton Channel turned up a few keeper rock.

Rob at Angler's near Annapolis says that about 20 fishermen checked in rockfish over 35 inches, and nearly all were finished spawning. From the twin spans down past Bloody Point is a good bet, and baits dragged at various depths in the first 50 feet of the water column seem to draw the most strikes. There are good numbers of fish along the eastern edge from CR Buoy to Buoy 84. Almost all of these fish easily exceeded 28 inches.

Farther south, Kathy Conner at Bunky's Charter's in Solomons issued 200 rockfish citations in three days. At press time, the charter boat Marchelle had top honors in that fleet with a rock of 52-inches. Breezy Point, Gooses, and the dropoffs near Hoopers Island produced fish. Incredibly, Kathy said some people have caught a couple of flounder and spot at the mouth of the Patuxent.

Can you say El Niño? I knew that you could.

Over the last few weeks, we have experienced one of the earliest runs of Atlantic croaker in memory, as nice catches of medium to large fish have been reported from the shallows of Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds and the Honga River. 1998 looks potentially like a monster year for croaker, perhaps surpassing the quality fisheries we have experienced over the past few years.

Yet bear in mind that fish are a finite resource so take what you can eat, carefully releasing the rest.

Chuck Foster says the flounder fishing in the back bays of Maryland and Virginia (behind Ocean City, Rt. 50 and the Thorofare, Assateague Bay, Gargathy Inlet, Ship Shoal to Chincoteague and Folly Creek) has been good with fishermen catching limits of the flatties consistently. Make sure to check regulations for the waters you are fishing in, as size and creel limits change from Maryland to Virginia.

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VolumeVI Number 17
April 30 - May 6, 1998
New Bay Times

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