Chesapeake Outdoors

by C.D. Dollar

Farewell Summer Rockfishing

VooDoo Child had barely taken a bite on the anchor when a voice floated across the water and asked "Hey, do you want this fish? We have our limit." I was torn between being grateful for the generosity and bewildered at what the angler thought I had hoped to accomplish with my own three fishing rods. I politely nodded no and went about my business of rigging fishing poles and setting up a chum slick.

It was the last evening of the rockfish season until August 15, when the season comes back in. I was anchored north of Sandy Point lighthouse, along a 35-foot edge, close to a drop-off where the water was about 15 feet deeper. The fishfinder had perfect arcs across the screen, the shape that usually indicates good-sized stripers.

The sound of laughter with a few whoops of delight filled the warm summer air as boats of varying sizes carrying anglers of equal diversity fished the waters around me. One troller, as he was removing the hook from a chartreuse parachute lure, said "you can't keep 'em outta the boat trolling."

Closer to the main stem of the Bay, a boat was loaded with so many people that it looked like a refugee crossing. These passengers successfully worked jigs and metal spoons, giggling with delight as schooling rockfish broke the surface chasing bait.

I was fishing solo, though I had left messages with a couple friends inviting them. The calls weren't returned, though the last day to catch rockfish kinda requires mandatory attendance, right? The flooding tide was beginning to wane, which was better for fishing.

Within 15 minutes, the starboard rod went down. Not an earth-shattering strike, but a solid hit nonetheless. The circle hook was neatly stuck into the side of the rockfish's mouth, which would make releasing the fish a breeze. But it easily made the cut, a good thing for me but perhaps not how the fish had envisioned its day to turn out.

As soon as the cooler lid shut, I had another strike, very similar to the first. Alongside quickly, the rockfish revealed itself a bit on the lean side. The circle hook again worked like a charm, and after a minute of moving the fish in the water to moisten its gills, I let it go. The fish headed to the depths.

I'd downed barely a sip of a cool drink when a thunderous hit brought down the port rod. I could tell this fish was nice - not a behemoth, but a good fish nonetheless. It gobbled up line in its effort to free itself, running traverses from stern quarter to stern quarter. When finally netted, the rockfish came in at 31 inches. A couple more fish were caught and were quickly and carefully released (the higher the water temperature the greater the mortality rate for stripers) to complete my fishing.

A wisp of breeze came from the south as the sun - radiating brilliant hues of reds, purples, grays and blues - made its final journey across our horizon on its way to the other side of the world. I sat in silence, listening to the chatter of people whose distance to me was impossible to judge. But what was clear was that they were happy and perhaps grateful to the fish for helping create their joy. I know I was.


Fish Are Biting

Rockfishing is done for now until August 15, but this year's early season is likely to be remembered as the finest since the moratorium - perhaps the finest in the last 30 years.

Fred Donovan from Rod 'n' Reel said all of Capt. Smokey Ward's fishing party aboard his boat The Hooker caught citation rockfish on one of the last days. Yet in the warm waters, rockfish become more susceptible to stress and infection, so a break will do them good.

There are plenty of other fish to chase. Croaker remain in Eastern Bay, at the Flag Pole and Tolley Point; they take worms and even flies like crystal shrimp and Clousers. Ron from Anglers told me he did well on nice white perch casting small flies to them. Mike Chase says that he and Steve Smith fished the small creeks of the upper Severn River with shad darts and couldn't keep the white perch off.

Big spot have been taken off Franklin Manor, from Patuxent River and on the shell bottoms around the Choptank River. Sea trout are also moving, and good catches of them are taken from Tangier Sound past James Island and north. Some bluefish catches are reported around Love Point, and some are breaking in the evenings, but the heavy concentrations remain south toward the Potomac River area. That could change any time now.

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VolumeVI Number 28
July 16-22, 1998
New Bay Times

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