Chicken livers might be the choice bait for shoreside fishermen seeking landlocked rockfish at Liberty and Piney Run reservoirs, but leave them home if you choose to fish for the truly wild variety in the fall season, which opens Wednesday in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
Then again, maybe you might slip a package in your pocket and give them a try.
It could be they're not used in tidal waters because no one has ever proved that wild rock will take them. You could be a trend-setter.
Realistically, the best real baits for rockfish of the Chesapeake are more in line with their standard menu. Drifted live eels are deadly, so are bloodworms and pieces of crab.
For trolling, choose small and medium-sized spoons (white is a good choice), and bucktails of either predominately white or yellow dressed up on the hook with strips or pork rind, red, yellow or white.
The season continues through Oct. 26 -- if recreational fishermen don't catch their quota before then. And if they don't take their quota by then, the season willbe extended until they do.
The charter boat season also opens Wednesday, and continues through Nov. 11 -- with no provisions for an extension if they don't catch their quota, though they face the same early shutdown if they do prior to the end.
Last year, both seasons were shut down early because anglers were much more successful than anticipated. This year, catch regulations have been tightened to insure longer fishing time.
The rock you catch in the Chesapeake will be a twin of the Liberty-Piney Run variety, though otherwise there is a difference. Reservoir stripers are truly landlocked, though they originate from Chesapeake stock.
They were released in the reservoirs as an experiment to serve as forage fish on smaller fishes that were overabundant and also to offer trophy fish for anglers lucky enoughto hook onto them.
No way could they hatch, it was figured, because in reservoirs they did not enjoy the current necessary to suspend the eggs. But at Liberty, nature played tricks on man.
There is strong evidence landlocked rock are reproducing on their own in the 3,100-acre reservoir.
Startling was the catch of Baltimorean Bobby Beecher, who a couple years ago took a 2-pound rock from Liberty. It shouldn't have been there.
Beecher was flabbergasted that September day in 1989. The rock, considered by many as a symbol of the Chesapeake, had gained a niche in freshwater, as many other Liberty anglers have since learned through delightful experiences.
But back to Beecher's catch. It is evidence that Maryland rock havereproduced in a landlocked situation. In addition, his catch has been backed up by electro-shock samplings by the Department of Natural Resources.
Rockfish stocked in Liberty from 1981 through 1984 are reproducing on theirown, and all of those fish have long since grown past the 2-pound stage. There is no other explanation for the presence of them in a reservoir that has no gateway to the Chesapeake.
We'll have an update on landlocked rock in both Liberty and Piney Run in the future, but this is the time to consider the wild rock, which incidentally is quite a fighter in its own right, but can't match its landlocked counterpart. The taste of both is comparable.
If you want to try the rock of the Chesapeake but don't have a boat, 200 charter skippers are available at an average of $250 to $375 a full day; $250 to $275 for a half-day. Split that among four to six members of the party, and the cost is modest.
Following are some suggestions for chartering a boat for rock. This is not an all-inclusive listing; instead a rundown on some of the better skippers I have fished with in 35 years on the bay:
* Harrison's Chesapeake House at Tilghman Island on the Eastern Shore, if you'd like to make an overnight trip or a long day. Call (301) 886-2121.
* In the Bay Bridge area, Capt. Ed Darwin, a master on drifting eels. Call (301) 254-1711.
* Rod & Reel Docks at Chesapeake Beach, which has a large fleet of boats on the Western Shore.Call (301) 257-2191.
* In the Solomons area, Capt. Jack Johnson at (301) 326-6274, or Capt. Robby Robinson at 1-301-326-3998.
* Closer to Carroll County, Capt. Chris Rosendale on Kent Island, call (301) 758-3193; also Capt. Hiram Ruth, call (301) 827-8746. And out of Bear Creek near Baltimore, Capt. George Crosby, call (301) 477-2898.
If you choose to fish your own boat, be sure it has the new Coast Guard user-fee sticker attached to the hull, something most boats don't display.
Last Tuesday, the Coast Guard began enforcement of the user-fee law despite a rebellion among boat owners who must pay from $25 to $100 on boats using navigable waters. Any craft of more than 16 feet must have a sticker in tidal waters.
Information: 1-800-BOAT; to order a sticker by Visa or MasterCharge, call 1-800-848-2100. No permit and tag is needed to fish a charter boat, and the limit is two rock a day between 18 and 36 inches. Free permits and tags are needed for private fishermen.
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