“I only write when I’m inspired,” wrote William Faulkner. I’d find that statement comforting if he hadn’t followed it with, “and I’m inspired every morning at 9:00 AM.” Lately, my every-morning-at-9:00 AM-ritual hasn’t included much writing. Oh, I’ve had plenty to write about, it’s just that I’ve overcommitted myself (again) so that every spare waking minute seems filled with obligation. When I have some spare time, I usually go fishing. Since I bet you’d much rather hear about the fishing than the excuses, I’ll dive right in.
If the paragraph above sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a re-run from an article I posted here on ChesapeakeLightTackle.com in April two years ago. I guess what goes around always comes back, and once again I’m struggling to keep too many plates spinning in the air. I sometimes have to scale down, tune out, and just fish. If I haven’t returned an email or phone call recently, I apologize. The good news is that things are starting to settle down and I’ve found a few minutes for a fishing report and a word or two of advice.
I bet you’re aware that the rockfish catch and kill season opens this Saturday in Maryland. While I enjoy seeing people get excited about fishing, I always dread the start of the kill season. Opening Day doesn’t mean much to fishermen who are in it for the simple joy of fishing. Most of us have been catching and releasing fish all winter. We fish because we love the sport, not because it puts meat on the table. I like to eat fish too, but you won’t see me keeping any big stripers this trophy season. Read More!
Why do you fish?
Recently, I put that question to some of the best fishermen I know, anglers with the right stuff who are continually successful. Their responses might surprise you. It isn’t a love of nature, the quest for solitude, or the thrill of the fight that drives them. Instead, they look at me with a what-kind-of-crazy-question-is-that glare and answer simply, BECAUSE I HAVE TO.
I get it. This winter has been hard on Chesapeake Bay anglers. Because of bad weather, opportunities to fish have been limited. It’s frustrating to the point of resentment. Take a look at any online discussion forum in the winter and you’ll see that some guys (and gals) take their frustrations out on their fellow anglers. Here’s what I think this frustration might look like in the format of a popular television commercial:
When you can’t fish, you get angry. When you get angry, you growl at people and animals. When you growl at animals, they growl back and you get chased by a bear. When you get chased by a bear, it shreds your pants and you hide naked in your neighbor’s garage. When you hide naked in your neighbor’s garage, her husband comes home and shoots holes in your boat. Don’t get holes shot in your boat. Go fishing. Read More!
Are you ever surprised when someone you know to be a good angler turns out to be an artist? How many fishermen have you met that are also painters, writers, builders, etc? After hanging around fish and fishermen for more than fifty years, it has become clear to me that fishing attracts creative thinkers. Fishing, by its very nature requires artistry, innovation, and experimentation. It frequently compels us to turn loose of what we know, and reach out for things we hope for.
Everyone should believe in something; I believe I’ll go fishing. – Henry David Thoreau
By now, you’ve probably heard me say that it’s the bad days that make us better fishermen. Catching is easy when fish are biting, and almost any lure you throw in the water will work. Conversely, it’s the tough days that require us to get creative and use the less logical side of our brains. My fishing partner Jamie Clough tells a story about an ancient old fly fisherman who has frequented the meat counter where he works for more than a decade. On each visit, he mentions a spot he used to fish where he caught big speckled trout. His secret fishing hole was right under everyone’s nose and smack in the middle of one of the highest-traffic areas in the Chesapeake Bay. Jamie says he’d smile and nod at the stories, but never gave them a second thought until one day last summer. After an unsuccessful and frustrating morning, he decided to check out the old guy’s unlikely trout spot. Can you guess what happened next? It’s a safe bet that Jamie will never pass by that spot again, and I’m thinking that gentlemen gets an extra-thick ribeye once in a while. Read More!
Actually, Bourdain never said that. Well, he did, but it was about cooking, not fishing. Some of the best fishermen I know like to cook. I guess that’s because there are a lot of similarities. I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend time with some very talented up-and-coming striper fishermen. What impresses me most is their willingness to open their minds and learn. As a result, they’re enjoying some of the best fishing experiences of their lives. That willingness to learn is a trait I’m including in a book I’m working on called, The Right Stuff.
According to the website Cookingschools.com, there are ten top qualities of a great culinary professional. As I read through them, I found it interesting how each of those qualities apply just as easily to great fishing. I hope they won’t mind if I parody their list a little by substituting fishing terms. Take a look to see if you have the recipe for a quality fishing experience. The few words I substituted are in italics.
Creativity: A great angler must be very creative and always willing to try something new. Creativity inspires a lure’s presentation, which is very important to the overall fishing experience.
Passion: A great angler has a tremendous passion for fish and fishing. They enjoy the process of selecting gear, preparing for trips, and creating lures. Read More!
That was the text message I got from my fishing partner Rich early on Super Bowl Sunday morning. It was a beautiful winter day with high temperatures expected to be in the 40s. Winds were light, skies were clear, and a new moon was pushing swift tides up the Chesapeake Bay. There was no reason to postpone our usual Sunday afternoon fishing trip, right? Well, no reason except for the 75 miles of ice clogging our waters.
It’s been a cold winter so far on the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay has frozen all the way across at the Bay Bridge on a couple of mornings and the Eastern shore has been iced in all the way up from Taylors Island to the Susquehanna Flats. The weekend warm-up had loosened up some areas, but almost all the Eastern Shore ramps were still packed in solid.
“Let’s try,” I shot back. We were suffering from serious cases of cabin fever and really wanted to go fishing. My next message went to the third member of our Sunday fishing trio, Jamie. “Any chance you can find an open ramp?” I typed. Both Jamie and Rich grew up on the Shore, and they have plenty of friends and relatives around the water. I imagined the local cellular networks were overwhelmed for a while as they called everyone they knew looking for a place to launch. A whistle from my phone alerted me to a possible plan. Jamie was forwarding pictures of an ice-free Knapps Narrows from his buddy Brian who lives on Tilghman Island. Jamie’s follow up text read, “My dad says Tilghman is always open. Those boys gotta fish.”
It’s winter: it’s cold, it’s wet, and it’s snowy. A lot of the ramps are iced in. It’s a great time of year to sit inside by the fire and read a book or watch a fishing video. I don’t know about you, but that keeps me entertained for about 15 minutes, then I gotta float a boat or something. Fortunately, winter is also a great time to catch and release striped bass. Rockfish are a lot more likely to survive when they’re released in cold weather. Science proves water and air temperatures greatly influence striped bass mortality. In a seminal catch & release study taken on the Susquehanna Flats in 1999, fisheries biologists Rudy Lukacovic and Ben Florence found that 98.4% of released rockfish live when they are turned loose in water temperatures of 57 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Stripers become more vulnerable as the weather warms and water temperatures rise, but their mortality percentage is still less than 4% in water temperatures of 62 degrees and less. Proper handling, good catch-and-release practices, and fishing in higher salinity waters can further improve catch-and-release mortality so that it’s possible to reduce the number of fish we kill to less than 1%. That makes winter a pretty awesome time to fish for those of us who are in it for the experience and not the meat. Read More!