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!
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!
We interrupt this conservation blog with a fishing report. Nah, it’s the other way around. Chesapeake Light Tackle will always be first and foremost a fishing-report website. Well, fishing reports along with some occasional good advice about gear and techniques. Don’t worry – I won’t be lightening up on Maryland DNR’s bad decision to increase rockfish harvest by 14 percent in the face of impending cuts, but I wanted to let you know that I have been lighting up some local fishing spots lately. It’s the holidays, and the weather hasn’t been great, but there are still some fish to be caught for those who are willing to brave the elements and cast for them. The warm water discharges have been hit-and-miss lately. Most of the anglers who have visited them have been disappointed, but once in a while, I hear of a good fish or two being caught. The same goes for the deep holes at the mouths of the rivers and also for my go-to-winter honey hole: Light Tackle University (“LTU”). Read More!
As much for my benefit as anyone’s, I’m listing my speaking schedule for the next few months. I’ll have books to sign at each event. At some, I’ll be presenting a new Power Point slide show called “The Right Stuff – Gear, Accessories, & Attitudes for Successful Light Tackle Fishing.” Good luck fishing this spring!
Feb 23rd – Annapolis Saltwater Fishing Expo - The SALTWATER FISHING EXPO will be held on Saturday Feb. 23rd from 8 AM to 3 PM at the Annapolis Elks Lodge. This event has grown into one of the most popular winter fishing shows in this area featuring expert seminar speakers, top quality tackle dealers and local charter captains and guides. I won’t be speaking this year, but I’ll have a table with books and hopefully plenty of opportunities to talk and answer questions.
March 2 – CCA Northern Virginia Banquet & Auction – Thirteenth Annual Dinner and Auction taking place on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013 at 6:00 pm. This year’s event will be at The Shriner’s Kena Temple in Fairfax, VA. The Northern Virginia guys have been working very hard with their donors and supporters in gathering a wide array of Auction items that are sure to impress – They have over $20,000.00 in live and silent auction items. This is a little different event for me in that I’ll have a microphone and my guitar and I’ll be accompanied by my buddy Joe Evans while performing some original songs about fishing and living in our region. Read More!