Chesapeake Outdoors By C.D. Dollar

 Vol. 9, No. 48
November 29 - December 5, 2001 
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The Last of the Rockfish

Not the good mojo of Ryan Adam’s riveting tune, “New York,” blaring crisp and clear at 4:30am on a mild November morning. Not the celestial explosion of the century rocketing across the horizon. Neither could infuse my last two rockfish trips of the year with enough good vibes to make them memorable. Utilitarian better describes them.

It’s a shame, really, since I had such high hopes for jigging up sea trout off Poplar Island and chasing breaking fish off Hoopers Island. Each day, the conditions were near ideal.

After the natural fireworks display, we launched out of the Honga River into the slick-calm water that stretched across the Bay to the Patuxent River. Several fish slicks created by the oil from baitfish being devoured below the surface were good omens. Yet they produced few fish, and only one was legal.

A few days later, as we fished between the mouth of Eastern Bay and Poplar Island, the tide was running right and fish arches crowded the screen on the meter. The only thing I might have changed was the water temperature. Hovering around 54 degrees, it was still a bit on the warm side. But again the fish refused to bite, which might be attributable to a cold front that passed through, leaving an east wind that might have put them off their feed.

When it was all over, there was only a beefy 18-inch rockfish and many plump white perch to show for the effort. Granted, it was plenty of take home for supper, so I hadn’t much room to whine, but it would have been nice to hook into bruiser rockfish on the fly rod or light tackle one last time. Of course, for the trout it isn’t over, and for rockfish there is catch-and-release or heading south to the Bay Bridge Tunnel.

A quick reflection back on my fishing year reveals that, all in all, it was a pretty good season, with variety in both salt and fresh water.

But it was the Bay fishing that was in many ways the most confounding, especially for larger rockfish and sea trout. Fly-fishing for rockfish only turned on for me in October, and even then most of the fish were sub-legal. They are a lot of fun on the fly rod, no doubt, especially when an occasional 10-pounder gets added to the mix.

Decent numbers of good-sized croaker again invaded Bay waters, though my notes reveal that my creel wasn’t as fat as in recent years. White perch, a favorite of mine this time of year, were accommodating as usual. The real mystery was the erratic nature of the weakfish (gray trout), which did not stay long in the upper Bay waters above Annapolis. I think a lot of fishing pressure around the Bay Bridges had an impact on catching these tasty fish.

But them’s the breaks, and that’s what keeps us coming back year after year till we wear ourselves out. Like that corny cliché, I suppose that is why they call it fishing instead of catching.

Fish Are Biting
True, the rockfish season closes at the end of November, but that doesn’t mean the Bay fishing scene shuts down. Far from it. Trout are around still, but they move about, and how much longer they’ll be here is the big question. Chain pickerel and yellow perch are fun to catch then release in rivers such as the Magothy and Severn.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly