Sporting Life

Randy Steck with two keepers at last

Begging a Bite on the Bay 

By Dennis Doyle 

The day started out right. Freshly anchored in the mouth of the Severn and the last rod not yet set up in our chumming attempt, the first rod had just bent over and stayed over, line pouring off of the firmly set reel drag. Yippee! 

Randy Steck, a long-time sporting friend, was on my left, same side as the hard arcing rod and as he struggled to free it from the rod holder, the fish cut a sharp right in the waters out behind us. Fearing it would cross and foul the other lines, I began to bring them in, starting with the one directly in front of me. 

How that fish managed to circle and foul that particular line in its initial run will always be a mystery but it took long moments to decide which direction to unravel the issue and to keep the fish free of other entanglements, the motor, the chum bags, the nav light. 

Then the fish (of course) cut back to the left and threatened to foul the remaining setup. Again, we feared disaster as the fish had continued taking line at will. We were fishing 20-pound mono and when mono crosses mono under pressure it cuts into itself like the proverbial hot knife. But we finally got a break and the fish cleared as it finally headed away toward the Eastern Shore. 

The rockfish came reluctantly and eventually to the side and I slid the net under it and brought it onto the deck. It was a very stout and shiny, 28-incher, every bit a beautiful fish. Alarmingly, the hook pulled easily out of the brute’s throat while it was still in the net, definitely a close call. The stern of our skiff was, of course, a maelstrom of loose lines, sinkers and baits. 

Not to worry, within about 10 minutes or so we had things sorted out and I had my own hands full with another substantial run. The fish stayed far out and deep but now we were kind of concerned that we would limit out before we really got started. But, as I said, not to worry. It was a big fish, extra fat and extra heavy, probably 25 pounds or so but this one was adorned with whiskers. A big blue cat. Not our first choice but great on the table. Into the cooler this one went as well. 

With only one striper to go for our limit and with high hopes for easy success we resumed fishing, however the bite then went absolutely dead for the next three straight hours, not a nibble nor a rod twitch. We pulled anchor and searched, found good marks and set up again. The marks disappeared and the dead bite continued. We pulled again, searched and again no luck. 

Then my phone rang and a neighbor, Frank, captain of the Downtime charter boat was on the line. “Any luck?” “No, just one striper in the box and not another bite for forever,” I answered. “Come on up north, we’re done and headed home with eight.”  Randy and I headed north, fast. Anchored directly in the Downtime’s chum slick, we felt it was now only a matter of minutes to limit out. After all we only needed one fish. 

Two hours later we again sat motionless with absolutely no action. Despondent and with our patience and time run just about completely out and getting ready to leave, I had one last desperate inspiration.  

Reaching inside my front pocket I located two shiny pennies. One at a time I flicked them over the stern, watching as they fluttered and flashed into the depths. 

I then intoned an impromptu entreaty, “Oh mighty Poseidon, master of all the earth’s seas, take pity on these two struggling fishermen who have offered you these coppers in obeisance. Grant us the attention of your subjects, the mighty striped bass” …or something like that. 

I looked over at Randy, who was giving me a hairy eyeball, “Does that work?” he asked. “Don’t know, never tried it before.” Minutes later we hooked up with a 34-inch rockfish and were done. 



The rockfish bite has resumed though tempered somewhat by the sudden blossoming of May worms. The winds continue to haunt anglers’ efforts and the recent rains haven’t helped either but that’s always the way it is this time of year. Trolling and chumming have been the most reliable tactics with decent results south of the bridge but far better luck north, past Swan Point. Medium sized bucktails with sassy shads are the ticket trolling, menhaden chunks for the chum crowd and the shore anglers. Catfish remain the most reliable catch but many decent stripers are being boated daily. Norfolk spot have shown up in local waters but live lining hasn’t taken hold yet nor has drifting soft crab. The rockfish schools are still cruising the Bay but should settle down soon and be easier to locate. Crabbing is improving daily. All is well.