Summer Evenings Lure Big Bites
Holding the Abu baitcaster in my left hand and running my thumb over the 20-pound mono wound tightly on its spool, I knew the new line was still shiny but I had confidence that it was barely visible in the darkening June waters under my skiff’s hull. The reel was in free spool and there was virtually no tension on the line as I fed more yards to my baitfish, exploring the depths below. It was lightly pinioned with a 6/0 circle hook, just under its skin, an inch behind the head and alongside the dorsal.
My thumb felt each surge of the bait’s movements as it tried to orient itself to its new, and suddenly vast, environment. The fish cruised comfortably below for some long minutes until eventually I could sense the panic begin to happen. Something big was approaching its vicinity and the little guy was not happy.
Before neither the small spot nor I was ready, it was over. A surge of movement at the end of my line indicated that there was a new and powerful presence there. The baitfish had been consumed and its possessor was now moving off smartly.
Giving it a ten count to also allow time for the striper to crush its meal then orient it to swallow, I lowered my rod tip, pointing it directly at my quarry as line continued to pour off of the reel.
The bait I had chosen for the evening’s task was one of four I had caught and managed into the live well not 20 minutes past, so I knew it was still spunky and full of wiggle. A lively bait is a good reason for optimism.
A fish moves silently in the water to our ears, but to another fish it is making its own brand of noise. Each sweep of its tail creates a small thump of movement that can go quite a way in the briny depths. Water does not compress, even the slightest bit, any disturbance, which travels directly away in the form of a pulse. These pulses travel further and faster in water than sounds do in the air, six times faster and further.
Though fish do not have eardrums, they possess a lateral, sensory line down the length of both sides of their bodies that detects the presence, distance, intensity, and direction of the water pulses and noise clicks reaching their area. That gives them a very good idea of what’s around them, where food fish might be found and an excellent idea of where dangers might lurk. All good reasons why gamefish will feel more comfortable during periods of minimum human activity.
Those are just some of the reasons why fishing at last light can prove so productive and that is exactly why I was there that evening. The rockfish at the end of my line turned out to be a seven-pounder and as healthy as they come. This time of year, the bite at very first light and then again at the end of the day can be the very best, if not the only action. Not only do you avoid the scorching summer sun but also the crowds and their collective din, both above and below the water.
In the quiet of the approaching night the presence of my tasty, four-inch spot was easily located by that crafty predator and quickly run down and captured.
The bite for rockfish has not improved much in the heat of summertime. The real key to finding the best action now is getting out by first or last light. Full nighttime can be excellent as well if you’re comfortable in the dark. The one rule for nighttime angling is never to go anywhere you’re not completely knowledgeable about during the day. That and being fully prepared, have all your emergency gear, radios and phone communications and someone on shore who knows your plans. Rockfish of keeper-size, though, can be found in decent numbers in the classic locations throughout the Bay. The Patapsco to Baltimore Harbor, Belvedere Shoals, Podickery Point, over to Love Point and north to Swan Point are good bet. Hacketts, Tolley and Thomas Point are also worthy locations on the Western shore and Bloody Point, Poplar Island and the Eastern Bay worth a look as well. Cruising and watching your finder will locate the richer areas to probe. Don’t join the chumming fleets these days as too many boats are willing to sit on empty water. Good live bait is getting scarce, even at the better sport stores, because the COVID-19 lockdowns have broken the supply chains so call ahead to be sure of getting some, or better yet, catch your own. Perch fishing is turning on well but look to shady areas under docks, piers and boat houses for action after 10am. Spot are scattered everywhere, many of decent size, but some areas are getting picked clean by anglers looking for live-lining baits. Croaker devotees are limiting their forays to later in the day into the evening. Crabbing is struggling along with anglers having to work hard for just a half bushel but it may pick up some in another month. Don’t waste your time working on poor runs, move until you find decent Jimmies, and don’t bother starting late. They’ll be gone.