October rewards Kent Island for the misery of August. While just breathing outside is a difficult task in the humid summer months, come October, cool breezes blow across the Chesapeake Bay through the lush green ferns that drip from the wrought iron balconies of the antebellum plantations near Romancoke at the far southern tip of the Island. I knew I would love the Land of Pleasant Living in October.
I drove down a long, oak-lined gravel driveway, got out of my car and walked up to the porch of the ancient block mansion. I heard about this place from a friend. “They don’t advertise,” he said, “you just have to know about it. It’s supposed to be one of the nicest Bed & Breakfast Inns on the East Coast.” I was tired because I had made the long drive from Tennessee early that morning. I was considering relocating to the Mid-Atlantic, so I had spent most of the day looking for a place to live.
I stood beneath the ferns and looked up toward the shake-shingled roof. Something caught my eye up there, perhaps the quick movement of a bird. A dark feather spiraled toward me. Once it hit the ground I leaned over to examine it – a pigeon maybe? No, it was more likely from the wing of a crow or a blackbird. “That’s odd,” I thought as I made my way up to the front door of the house. Read More!
That’s not a cheer you’re likely to hear at any NFL game this fall, but after several years of disappointment, striped bass anglers are slapping fives all over the East Coast about the news that Maryland’s Young of the Year (YOY) index came in the eighth highest ever. I’m not surprised since I’ve seen thousands of fingerling-sized rockfish feeding in the shallows through the summer. Many of my fishing buddies have also noticed all the baby fish. About a month ago, I penned a Hooked Up forum post about all the tiny rockfish. You can read my comments and those of other anglers here: Hooked Up – Zillions of Tiny Rockfish.
Count me as one of those joining the celebration. Back in 2011 we also had a good spawn. If you’ve been fishing on the Bay recently, you know that it’s relatively easy to find schools of breaking rockfish in the 15-20 inch range. Many of these are 2011-class fish. Now that we’ve had another successful spawning year, we can hope for continued good striped bass fishing. By 2018, most of this year’s baby fish will be 18-inches or longer. At the same time, the 2011 fish will be approaching the 30-inch mark. Now that should be fun! If fisheries managers make the right choices, we should enjoy good striped bass fishing in the Chesapeake Bay for at least the next decade. Read More!
“Anyone can get lucky and catch a winning or trophy fish. What separates the men from the boys is consistency.” – Bill Burton
The best anglers I know have a solid grasp of three basic elements. The first is a willingness to learn and change behaviors or techniques when necessary. That means incorporating the latest technologies and staying on top of the best research. It also includes sorting through the folklore to pick out the very best practices and discarding the nonproductive tactics that bog us down. Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you’re not happy with the results you’re getting, it’s time to change. There are not many fishermen who have perfected their skills to the point where they are successful every time. The handful who have could teach us all something. These are the guys who need to write a book. I know I’d buy it. Fishermen with the right stuff are continually seeking opportunities to learn – to step outside of tried-and-proven comfort zones to find what works.
The second element is enthusiasm. Good fishermen eat, drink, smoke, and chew fishing. When they aren’t fishing, they’re thinking about fishing, and they’re probably planning their next fishing trip (or two). They seek out new information and pour over every tidbit of data they can find that might improve their skills. They surround themselves with like-minded people who share their passion for the sport. They also work to conserve the species they enthusiastically pursue. Read More!
I hang with a lot of fisheries guys. If I had to guess at the backgrounds of the people I’ve fished with most frequently, it would be (in order) coaching baseball, cutting meat, and studying fish. My brother is a fisheries biologist as are many of my friends. I was thrilled recently when a young fisherman who is still in high school reached out to me about his career plans, “I want to be a fish scientist,” he said. “I want to make a difference.” Obviously, I appreciate those guys and the science in which they work.
I looked up the term Fisheries Management and found this: Fisheries management draws on fisheries science in order to find ways to protect fishery resources.
I like the phrase, “draws on fisheries science.” As a fisherman and a conservationist, I want management decisions based on facts, not politics, pseudoscience, or hearsay. I am a student of the collective knowledge acquired by fishermen. There’s nothing I’d rather hear than the recommendations of a seasoned angler or the sage advice of an experienced waterman. On the other hand, I work in a scientific profession, so I recognize that good science trumps folklore on every occasion. Read More!
Bad news and more bad news. If you’re following the politics around striped bass management, you know it’s all bad news for the fish lately. Where are the rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay? It doesn’t take an expert to realize that almost every fishing boat from Solomons Island to Rock Hall is working one primary school of stripers. To quote conservation blogger John McMurray, “it’s not where the fish are, it’s where they aren’t,” and apparently they aren’t anywhere except near the mouth of Eastern Bay.
Despite the demise of our state fish, things are looking up for another native Chesapeake species, the red drum. You probably haven’t heard much about catching redfish in Maryland over the past decade, but that’s all changing. Last summer there were reports of redfish as far north as the Gunpowder River in the Upper Bay. I started targeting them around Kent Island last August, and I’m already catching them again this year.
Thanks to good management practices – especially by states to our south – and an overall warming trend along the Atlantic Coast, red drum are expanding their range. That’s good news for Chesapeake light tackle fishermen because redfish will readily attack a jig or a topwater plug. Even if you’ve never targeted redfish before, chances are you already know how to catch them. Almost all the artificial lure techniques we’re currently using for stripers will work for redfish. As stripers continue to decline, redfish are moving into their habitat and populating the underwater humps and ledges where stripers used to feed. Read More!
“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!