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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

A sad but necessary chore 

     Getting the boat ready for winter causes me emotional upheaval. It is not only a burden of hours but also an unwelcome recognition that one of my great avenues to peace and contentment will soon be closed off.       I’ve made my checklist, only to avoid it for weeks. Each item is a step closer to a kind of prison, so I’m not fond of any of the unavoidable tasks facing me.

This time of year, the biggest fish are usually the deepest fish

     It was near sunset by my watch, though that glowing orb appeared still a good distance above the skyline. The temperature, however, was plunging faster than my optimism. Hoping for an afternoon bite, I had been cruising my favorite spots at a river’s mouth, throwing first a surface plug then a soft jig. With no success at finding keepers, I was now chasing days-old rumors.

You’ve got to be on the water to get a bite

      We were running out of time. The sky was growing dim. Our baits and lures had long gone untouched. A few other boats floated listlessly, scattered widely, doing nothing, and our sonar screen had remained consistently empty of any promising marks below. Then Frank said the magic word: “Birds!”

Start now, or regret it later

     I was again planning for a great day. Winds were forecast out of the west at five mph, and temperatures were to be in the mid 60s. Couldn’t ask for a better picture.      By 10am it was still blowing 20 out of the north. The mercury hadn’t yet climbed out of the 50s. Another fishing fantasy started by a forecaster was ruined by the actual weather.

Always be prepared for cold ­weather on the Bay 

     For the unprepared, cold weather on the Bay can be dangerous, especially when temps begin dipping below the 50s. On the water, a chill is more unpleasant than almost anywhere else.
Diaper stripers far outnumber keepers
     Casting to breaking rockfish under birds in the main Bay is outstanding right now. Just don’t be fooled into thinking that open water is where you’ll find keepers.
Spanish mackerel mix with blues and rock
      Ed Robinson had cranked his three-quarter-ounce gold Kastmaster metal spoon to about 10 feet from our boat when the water exploded in spray and foam. His drag started screaming, and he could barely hold his rod above the horizontal. When he managed to lift the tip to leverage some line back, it was again jerked down, and the howl emanating from his reel resumed.

There’s no better time to experience this graceful sport

     It was a still morning, and the early chill of fall was in the air. Stripping about 50 feet of line from my fly reel and allowing it to pile on the deck at my feet, I stretched successive sections of the thick strand between my hands to lessen its coil memory while reversing the pile of line to my right side. It was an old habit, and I didn’t have to think much doing it.

Top-water fishing is invigorating

     Top-water fishing for rockfish is one of the few things that can get me up well before dawn. To have the quiet of an early Chesapeake morning broken by the explosion of an attacking striper will undo your nerves.

They’re big, fat and catchable

The four of us were remarkably restrained as the first bunch of steaming, fiery-red crustaceans was deposited in the middle of the well-protected tabletop that evening. There were several monsters in the pile, and pains were taken to ensure everyone got two or three to start.