“One last drift,” I called up. My son was casting from the bow while I piloted the boat. It was getting dark and we had New Year’s Eve dinner plans in Annapolis, so we had to go. The better fish were holding in a warm water pyconocline; a spot no bigger than a pickup truck bed, 40-feet deep. I pointed the bow of my 27 Judge CC into the swift current and idled us into a position just downstream from the rocky corner. Daniel compensated for the strong flow and launched his hotrodded chartreuse BKD toward an imaginary spot 20-yards upstream from where he wanted his lure to touch the bottom. In water this swift, he’d be lucky if his jig bumped the rocks three times before it drifted downstream out of the strike zone. A successful cast either caught a fish, or brought up a clump of the brown bryzoan moss that covers the bottom. The only other option was to hang up. He brought his elbows together beneath the low-profile baitcaster and followed the arc of his line with his extra-fast rod tip as he anticipated the slight bump that would tell him his lure had touched the rocks.
Bump. There it was. A quick snap of the wrist picked the jig back up before it had time to snag on the bottom. Again, he followed the line with his rod tip and waited for the bump as the lure fell. Watching the drop. Anticipating. Any moment now. Slam! Daniel set the hook and fought another 24-inch football-shaped striper to the side of the boat. That made seventeen in 90 minutes – a fun evening of catch & release fishing very close to home.
It’s the first day of the new year and if you’re like me, you’re still trying to recover from the chaos. Amidst this flurry of activity, I’ve finally found a few minutes to grab a hot cup of chicory-laced coffee and sit down on my front porch to reflect on the activities of the season. The holidays bring fun times with family and friends, hopefully a few minutes of fishing, and usually a few material blessings. Santa brought me canvas curtains for my boat this Christmas. (Okay, he’s still making them, but they’re on the way.) I also found a new medium power, extra-fast action casting rod under my Christmas tree. My sons got a few gifts to help them with their music careers and my grandkids are inside playing with some educational toys. All this and the technical aspects of last night’s successful fishing trip has me thinking about the tools we use in pursuing our passions and professions.
Last Thursday, I spent the afternoon with Tony and Dee Tochterman at their tackle store in the Fells Point section of Baltimore. I’m amazed any time I visit their shop, but even more so this time since they’ve recently added a new lure making and fly tying room. Simply put, it is the biggest collection of lure making supplies, tools, books, and gear I’ve ever seen under one roof. In addition to lure making supplies, Tony also has a fantastic collection of rods and reels and industry designed lures. No doubt about it, Tochterman’s has all the right stuff for Mid-Atlantic fishing.
I’ve been extremely impressed by the quality assortment of gear that can be found in local bait stores in the Chesapeake Bay region. I plan to visit many more since I’m in the process of marketing my new book, and I’ll be sure to report back. Daniel and I recently sat down at a local bar over a beer and discussed similarities in the tools we use in our trades. We compared musical instruments to fishing equipment.
A Brazilian rosewood guitar or a hand-carved European upright bass won’t make you a good musician. There may come a time for instruments of that quality, but it’s overkill for a beginner. On the other hand, anyone learning to play should use an instrument that is of high enough quality to show a respectable return for their effort. Instead of overcoming technical limitations, your practice time is better spent learning the notes and chords you want to play. The same is true with fishing equipment. Anyone learning to jig would be foolish to spend several hundred dollars on a top-quality rod or reel, but they will need an outfit that doesn’t make it difficult to recognize strikes or feel a lure touch the bottom. The wrong stuff makes it harder to catch fish, the right stuff makes it easier. In other words, in music or fishing, you don’t want anything that gets between you and the expected reward.
I usually recommend off-the-rack rods in the $100.00 price range and reels of $75.00 to $100.00. A sensitive rod is by far the most important factor to consider. I devoted an entire chapter in my book to rod and reel selection. There is a condensed version here on this website. If you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend talking to someone at the local tackle stores and bait shops in our area. I’m getting to know these folks fairly well and I can tell you first-hand that most of them know what they’re talking about. If you need a recommendation, drop me a line and I’ll steer you toward a shop that is sure to equip you with the right stuff.
Maryland Chesapeake Bay catch & release season is in full swing. Water temperatures haven’t changed much (mid to high 40s) and the patterns are about the same as in last week’s report. There are still lots of two- and three- year-old rockfish holding around the Bay Bridge rockpiles with an occasional bigger fish thrown in. In my Bay Bridge chapter of the book I explain exactly how to find them. Some of my buddies are reporting decent fish on the ledges on both sides of the channel in the Breezy Point area. The warm water discharges are still slow, but holding a few fish, and the upper Bay rivers are still turning out schoolie stripers. Those willing to travel are finding big fish in the ocean from Chincoteague down almost to the North Carolina state line. Most of these fish are way out past the three mile line, but there are a few schools showing up closer to shore.
Pickerel fishing in area creeks and rivers is very good. Yellow perch are slow at the mouth of the Susquehanna, but things should improve with the impending cold weather. White perch fishing is okay in the deep holes in the rivers and around the Bay Bridge. Options are plenty and things are shaping up for a good winter for Chesapeake Bay fishing.
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