"This is the second time I've warned you, stand clear of that whale."
"But, Officer, he likes me."
I decided to be very good. I put the Catherine-M in gear, waved goodbye to Wally and slowly headed away from watching my first whale in the Chesapeake Bay.
The incident took place last Sunday. I was doing a bit of prospecting for the upcoming striped bass season when Capt. Russ Green of the Carol-G called. He said he had been whale watching for the past hour.
I knew that the upper bay captains had changed working radio channels at our last meeting, but I didn't remember anything about a code name called "whale watching." Green said he was serious. A big whale was at the eastern end of Brewerton Channel. I thanked him for the information and since we were only a few miles away motored to the area.
A Coast Guard and a marine police boat were nearby to keep other boats clear. I pulled to one side and took the boat out of gear. Wally or Walena Whale rolled to one side and waved a 5- or 6-foot flipper at us, then rolled to the other side and waved its other flipper. It then started swimming in my direction. That's when the officer got a little excited.
I figured the officer had his hands full so I waved goodbye. On Monday there was no trace of Wally. I hoped he enjoyed visiting us as much as we enjoyed seeing him.
Reflecting on the incident, I could see where someone might think they had seen Chessie if the whale hadn't waved his flippers at us.
Speaking of Sunday, I spent the whole day visiting all the rockfish hot spots from the Magothy River north to Tolchester, some of them twice. The result was surprising.
I did not find any large concentrations of rockfish. Now don't get excited and start crying wolf like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation does. Plenty of rockfish are out there. They just aren't where they are supposed to be.
Last yearmany of the charter boats from Solomons moved their operations up here for the rockfish season. This year many of the boats are staying home. They have excellent sea trout, both spotted and gray, fishing; good flounder fishing; plenty of bluefish; and a fair number of rockfish.
Charter boats from the Deale/Chesapeake Beach/Tilghman Island report large concentrations of rockfish off the West and South River,some small to medium stripers on the Stone Rock and at the mouth of the Choptank River, and mixed blues and rock at Gum Thickets and Brick House Bar.
Right now it appears that we should have a very interesting striped bass season, at least the first part of the season. I suspect that after a bit of cool weather we should see the rockfish move back to their normal fall and winter haunts.
Although illegal,I saw several anglers sharpening their rockfish technique Sunday.
One of the reasons we have seen fewer dead striped bass this year isthe high salinity in the bay. Hook and release mortality increases as the salinity decreases. This is one of the reasons many stripers are killed by anglers at the Conowingo Dam. The fish are caught and released in fresh water. Tests show that more than 50 percent die from the stress of being caught and handled.
Move this operation to LovePoint where the salinity is 5 to 7 parts per thousand right now and the mortality is almost nil. The exception to this are those anglers who fish live eels. Striped bass often take live eels very deep and an attempt to retrieve your hook usually results in a dead rockfish. It is better to cut your line and let the fish swim free with the eel and your hook in its stomach.
Sunday we will get into a little of the "how-to" on catching rockfish, and a little of the fireworks fromMonday's Striped Bass Advisory Board meeting.