The Journey Out
by C.D. Dollar
It was a tight squeeze on Kevin's 19-foot Carolina Skiff with the Colbeck boys and me, three dozen duck decoys and assorted gear when we left Shorter's Wharf in Dorchester County and headed for the public hunting area in the heart of Maryland's answer to the Florida everglades. But the skiff moved nicely over the dark water, skidding around corners like a speed skater.
Truth be known, the journey out is one of my favorite parts of the hunting or fishing expedition. I guess it's the crispness of the air or the speed of the boat over water, but mostly it's the anticipation of the unknown. What will the day bring? Will the birds fly? Will the fish hit the lures? In the coiled guts of the marsh that sensation is heightened, and when the trip is made in the dark, that adds another shot of adrenaline.
We followed the Blackwater River looking for our mark to turn in where a slender ditch opened up to a large tidal salt pond. It was off this pond, in one of the many side pockets of the Blackwater, that we would set our decoy spread. Of course we had plenty of company in the marsh, typical of an opening day in the second split of the waterfowl season.
Maryland, though a small state, does an admirable job of opening up its natural areas for public use - be it hiking in Savage State Forest in Western Maryland gunning on the Eastern Shore in Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area.
Once at our spot, we arranged the mallard and pintail decoys out in front of a knob of marsh in a crescent shape separated into two groups. I ditched the boat up a small gut and hoofed it back to the group. There was about 12 feet of water between me and my partners, so I cautiously waded to the other side. But being vertically challenged to some degree, I took some water over my waders. The price we pay.
Then we waited and watched for the birds. Soon, an explosion resounded throughout the marsh but not by our hand. After a while, our chance came, including one group of eight mallards that tolled perfectly. Though the result wasn't as good as we may have hoped, that is hunting sometimes, and it's a part of the intrigue and excitement that keeps you coming back.
Fish Are Biting
Early in the morning before work this week, Willy Agee and I fished the stonepile at the Bay Bridges with feather jigs, catching a few undersized rockfish and some nice perch. Birds are working pretty hard as schoolie rockfish and bluefish fatten up for winter's chill.
Jim from Anglers says the same thing and adds that good concentrations of sea trout are in the upper part of the Bay, with some keeper rockfish scattered. Eastern Bay and Kent Narrows on moving water can also produce legal rockfish.
The place to be for keeper rockfish better than 25 inches is in the middle and southern part of the Bay. Mike from Breezy Point Marina checked in a 20-pound striper this week and reports that, incredibly, nice croaker are still being caught off Breezy Point and North Beach. Sea trout in 50 to 70 feet of water near Silver Ball and off Holland Point will take feather jigs and metal jigs. Plenty of stripers at the Gas Docks, though many are undersized.
Per usual, the Diamonds and Stone Rock can produce limits of rockfish as well as gray trout when the weather cooperates. Cedar Rip is holding rockfish as well. Down in the southern waters of the Chesapeake, breaking bluefish and rockfish are going nuts at Puppy Hole, off Point Lookout and the mouth of the Potomac River. The Middle Grounds and Targets have some bruiser-sized rockfish.