My perch measured about nine inches, which should have been too big for live-lining, but the others swimming in our Jerry-rigged live-well were the same size, maybe bigger. I lightly hooked it just in front of the dorsal with a sharp 5/0, bright-red, live-bait hook and gently sailed it toward the bridge pilings.
Rockfish are finally back in force in the mid-Bay. Live-lining and chumming are red-hot at most locations, including the Bay Bridge, Podickery, Love Point, Hackett’s and all points south. Limits of fish from 20 inches up to the low 30s are not taking long when the tidal currents are right. Perch and spot are being caught almost everywhere, though the spot are not yet in great numbers. Croaker are also here, but their numbers and size haven’t lived up to expectations from their early run. Crabs are doing well, and many continue to be light, but time will cure that.
It landed with a splash and scooted into the depths, an ideal move from my perspective but perhaps a mistake for the perch. There were hungry stripers lurking down there. Line fed out smoothly under my thumb. Then, as the perch neared the bottom, I felt my baitfish put on a frantic burst of speed followed by an ominous pause.
When my line moved out again, it was with an altogether different tempo, and a much more powerful force pulsed up the line. I patiently let the rockfish swim off, knowing that if I set the hook too soon there was a good chance I would simply pull that big perch out of its mouth.
It was only after a long 10-count that I finally tightened up the drag, put the reel in gear and, when the line came tight, slammed my hook home. My rod bent hard over and line pulled out, with my reel screaming in protest.
A most unusual fish fight followed.
Who Wants a 9-Inch Perch?
Buddies Mike and Roger and I had been perching at the Bay Bridge for two hours, doing quite well and getting ready to call it quits with a nice catch. But Roger had been putting aside a couple of the perch in a cooler full of water. Mike and I ignored him because we felt they were all too large for live-lining and his efforts a waste of time.
As we started to stow our tackle for the trip home, Roger put one of the chunky perch on a live-hook, jumped up on the bow and lobbed it toward the pilings. As it swam down, a rockfish hit it almost immediately.
Roger failed to hook up on that first run, but Mike and I banished all thoughts of ending the day and helped ourselves to Roger’s too-big baitfish.
Mike hooked up a good fish only to break it off on the pilings. Soon re-rigged, he landed one of about seven pounds. Then I got my hot run and began battling a powerful fish that was giving every indication of being a good one.
I also discovered a problem. I could feel my line rubbing against some rough structure deep below. I maneuvered to one side then the other but couldn’t get the line away from whatever it was chafing against.
As I finally worked the fish back toward the boat, I found I could only get it so close before the unseen obstruction stopped my progress. Putting the reel into free spool, I let the big fish swim off.
I performed that exercise a number of times, but my line remained fouled. What was worse, the fish exhibited renewed strength and began to pull harder than ever, taking back every bit of line I managed to gain on it.
In the meantime, Roger had hooked up and was battling his own fish. He was having his own problems, as neither of us made any headway in getting our fish to the boat. Finally the unseen obstruction took its toll, and my line broke.
As I re-rigged for another attempt, Roger finally boated his striper. It was a beauty, easily 10 pounds, and as he freed it from the net to remove his hook, I noticed a glint of red steel.
The big striper had two hooks in its jaws, Roger’s black-nickeled hook and my bright-red hook, which was also trailing half a dozen feet of seriously abraded line. Sometime after taking my bait and fouling my line, the hungry striper had eaten Roger’s perch. For a good part of the last 15 minutes, Roger and I had been battling each other over the same fish.