Chesapeake Outdoors
Rock: Another Opening in Another Show
by C.D. Dollar

The closest I got to catching a rockfish in this first week of the 1999 Spring Trophy rockfish season was the cod end of a 20-foot trawl net, where a five-inch juvenile striper had ended up after a haul in Meredith Creek. Several reasons (none justifiable, really) have kept me from wetting a line and going after the big boys and girls that have come to the Chesapeake Bay tributaries to spawn.

Apparently, a plethora of healthy rockfish are scattered throughout the Bay, and as is the case in many an early fishing season, anglers are trying to determine if any pattern has emerged.

This early season runs from April 23 through May 31, and anglers are allowed to keep one fish per person per day with a 28-inch minimum. Also, fishing is restricted to waters of the main stem of Chesapeake Bay from a line that extends from the Patapsco River to Swan Point to the Maryland/Virginia state line, including Tangier and Pocomoke sounds.

In general, these fish tend to be found in the first 25 or so feet of the water column in depths overall from 35 to 60 feet. Among the assortment of lures being used are bucktails and parachutes (colors: white, chartreuse) dressed with sassy shad, umbrella rigs and planer boards, Stretch Manns and others.

Since I have no rockfish tales to tell, let's hear what others have done.

Jim from Angler's up in Annapolis reports that several 30- to 40-pound fish have been taken, some around Love Point, and all on the edges of the main channel, though he says it doesn't seem to make a difference whether the west or east side.

My man Fred Donovan tells me the fleet out of the Rod 'n' Reel fishing center in Chesapeake Beach got out of the blocks fast on the first two days - Friday and Saturday - and most fish were in the 28-to 36-inch range. "A lot of limits were caught those first two days, though Sunday was a bit slower. Monday and Tuesday picked right up. Those fishermen that didn't catch limits of legal fish still caught rockfish. A lot of beautiful, healthy fish out there," Fred reports.

Fred says most of the guys are working waters close to home, in depths of 35 to 38 feet. He also says some area watermen have turned up a few big croaker in their crab pots, but when I asked him if he knew where and how deep, he wasn't sure. (I should have known better than to ask that question.)

Moving south to the Patuxent River region, Kathy from Bunky's Charters in Solomons says that so far the season has been excellent for the fleet that fishes out of their docks. Most of the fleet is trolling, though some have tried their hand at chumming. She checked in a monster rock that weighed more than 51 pounds, though she didn't have the name of angler, charter boat or captain at that time. A monstrous trophy by any standard.

Kathy also didn't know if the big fish was a cow with roe. If that was the case, then potentially millions of eggs were removed from the stock. Just something to think about if you are good enough and lucky enough to face the choice of whether to keep a large spawner or take a picture and release it.

Kathy also said a fat croaker of 16 inches was taken on grass shrimp near the mouth of the river. Hopefully, these early signs of hardheads are harbingers of another stellar bottom fishing year.

The opening of rock season is exciting and grabs top billing, but it is by no means the only game in town. I have been pickerel fishing in area rivers several times in the last six weeks with great success. Hickory shad, Atlantic mackerel and freshwater trout also offer fishing opportunities.

Marty Gary from DNR reports that the hickory shad run on Deer Creek is now at peak, and says that from what he has heard, it seems to be as good this as any of the last few years.

Anglers' Help Wanted

To help determine the size structure of striped bass caught by recreational anglers from the spring through the fall season, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources asks Maryland anglers to participate in its 1999 Cooperative Striped Bass Survey. The survey will also supplement existing monitoring programs and provide data on short-term fishing trends.

To join in, log on to DNR's survey at to print out a copy of the official form. Or call 410/260-8228.

| Issue 17 |

Volume VII Number 17
April 29 - May 5, 1999
New Bay Times

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