Chesapeake Outdoors
Fishing with Random Abandon
by C.D. Dollar

First, I waited until the butter bubbled and snapped in the iron skillet. Then I lowered the fillets - lightly battered with corn meal, Old Bay and a beer-egg mix - into the pan and watched them turn a golden brown. Matt Miller, a long-time friend and occasional fishing partner, hadn't had spot and sea trout prepared this way, which is perhaps a crime, or at least a crying shame.

I was determined to change that misfortune.

The final touch was to fry a few eggs over easy, toast some bread - then let your taste buds relish in this simple but tasty fare.

The schoolteacher and I were cooking breakfast at Fox Island lodge, the Bay Foundation's center of environmental education and spiritual invigoration. The catch, from the previous evening's outing, included two nice sea trout and one jumbo Norfolk spot. We had caught a few more fish, mostly legal, though for our purpose undersized.

In my mind, the whole trip was based on idea that whatever happens, happens. As for a fishing game plan, there wasn't any reason or rhyme to it, just the fish. Usually preparedness is the first rule of fishing, but I was tired of rules, and anyway I get enough of those at work. It was a fun fishing trip, pure and simple.

These points were borne out after breakfast as we headed north without bait. Not to worry, one thing Tangier Sound doesn't lack is working watermen, many of whom would be willing to sell us peeler crab.

Total randomness brought us to two fellas working pots off Cedar Marsh. As casually as possible, I sidled up next to deadrise and asked if they had any peelers for sale. Sure enough, they did, we passed over our bucket and money, and in short order it was returned with decent-sized crabs, many ready to bust out of their old shells. We chatted briefly as the amicable watermen rhythmically separated crabs by size and stage of molt. They said the crabbing was picking up, and were encouraged that the fall might turn an otherwise poor crabbing season around.

I noticed a basset hound on deck, trying to peer over the gunwhale (everyone knows a dog on board brings good luck). As I was leaving, I told the watermen the dog looked like the one from that Burt Reynolds movie, though I couldn't remember the name of the flick. Just as I pushed off, the quiet one shouted Smokey and the Bandit. We laughed in agreement, then waved good-bye, leaving them to their work.

For the rest of the day, we prowled around lower Tangier Sound, sans a fish finder, dunking peeler crab at the Puppy Hole and a few other spots. The fresh bait was the ticket, and we caught many undersized sea trout and kept several big croaker as well as two trout better than 18 inches. When the day was done, we loaded the boat onto the trailer and headed for home. Once again, the open, green water of Maryland's lower Bay recharged this boy's bones.


Fish are Biting

I am starting to sound like a broken record, but not much has changed since last week. Bottom fishing is as hot as ever, with white perch, spot and croaker heading up the list of options. One thing is certain and that is the high salinity, spurred by the drought, has caused some crazy migration patterns and resulted in some unusual catches.

Jim from Anglers (410/974-4013) reports that anglers are bringing searobins to the shop for identification. The Bay's searobins are bottom-dwellers that use their pelvic fins to cruise the bottoms and root out crabs, worms and other small creatures. Generally they are found below the Potomac River, but with salinity levels topping 20 parts per thousand (ocean water is 35 ppt) around the Bay Bridge, it isn't that surprising that they would venture up this far.

Also, Jim said a customer checked in a 21-pound black drum taken from Hacketts Point. Spanish mackerel and bluefish are busting the surface from Point Lookout past the Patuxent River up toward Annapolis. Cobia are also being taken as far north as Chesapeake Beach.

Lots of options and lots of fish.

| Issue 33 |

Volume VII Number 33
August 19-25, 1999
New Bay Times

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