Boating on busy bay loses a lure

OUTDOORS

July 04, 1993|By PETER BAKER

Several days ago, after more than three hours of trolling to the lower end of Poplar Island and then north to Bloody Point and across the Chesapeake Bay to Thomas Point, a malaise set in. No fish had been caught, no lure had even been swiped at.

You know the kind of day, lots of boat traffic -- big sportfishermen charging across the bay to drop an anchor line at St. Michael's, muscle boats throttled up and heading nowhere special at 60 mph, fleets of sailboats drifting toward turning marks and crews grumbling each time a wake knocks the wind out of their sails.

The kind of bright, sunny day on which the bay should have been almost flat calm but instead was a mass of turbulence.

But, hey, everybody has got a right to boat on the bay, right?

Sure they do. Just ask the guy who came barreling down from Tolly Point toward Thomas Point in a spiffy, color-coordinated runabout on that recent Saturday.

Wonderful guy, I suppose. Family man with one kid and a retriever puppy onboard. Came out of a jumble of sailboats waiting for enough wind to start a series of races and made a bee line from the Tolly Point bell to Thomas Point Light. Passed 50 yards off my port beam and turned around my transom as precisely as a racing crew taking the windward mark.

Trouble was that in the process he took 300 yards of 30-pound monofilament from each of two reels, two 16-ounce sinkers and a pair of crippled alewive spoons with him -- and didn't stop to say thank you.

When the fishing boat he had used as a turning mark pulled alongside the happy boater a few hundred yards later, the fellow was nonplused.

"Geez, I had no idea," he said. "It's not even my boat, and besides, I'm a sailor, not a powerboater."

The fellow was no boater at all.

*

Weekend boat traffic and yahoos aside, catching has been tough in the middle bay recently. The most commonly heard reason is that the heavy spring rains have made the salinity of the middle and upper bay too low to attract large numbers of saltwater fish such as blues, spot, flounder, sea trout and croaker.

Those fish will work their way into their normal ranges eventually, but in the meantime, at this time of year when the fishing should be picking up fast, the action is slow.

*

The other evening off Hackett's Bar, small groups of fish were feeding on the surface. Not the concentrated hunts of big schools of blues or stripers, but here and there one, two or three bigger fish chasing bait fish over different areas maybe 50 yards square.

You know, the surface activity that can drive you nuts. The fish are too scattered to cast to efficiently, but visible enough that you have to try.

After 45 fruitless minutes of casting that evening, we decided to take another tack. Rather than cast spoons where the feeding fish already had been, we rigged a couple of trolling lines with a pair of superbly molded, 8-inch plastic fish.

As they went into the water, they swam beautifully -- elegant, $7 imitations set on 4/0 leadheads complete with pointed snouts and finely painted eyes.

Within 15 minutes, they were destroyed, their paddle tails nipped cleanly two inches aft of the hook.

The fish might not have seen us coming, but the tackle salesman certainly did.

*

One of the lures that caught my fancy in a catalog over the winter is called the Invader, a fully formed metal fish with twin treble hooks, big, bright eyes and reflective prism tape set along its sides.

This curious, 6-inch hunk of metal, which its manufacturer says may be cast, jigged or trolled for all species of fish, has yet to draw a strike.

L Too bad it wasn't tied on when the happy boater happened by.

I'd have thanked him for taking it with him.

*

Boats are great little things to have around. They take you fishing, water skiing, cruising. Trouble is that you have to have people aboard to run them.

The other day, I bought bloodworms and took a pair of kids out in search of spot at Thomas Point Light. You know, a slow day with sodas and snacks and fast action for small fish.

All we caught were toadfish.

And to top it off, the older of the two kids had on a pair of black rubber sandals that are all the rage these days. Trouble is, once the sandals get wet they leave black footprints that are harder to clean than motor oil stains.

Guess I'll have to take him again so he can fill in the few white areas of the deck that remain.

*

Near the mouth of the channel to the creek near my house, a pair of osprey have built an impressive nest atop a day mark, from which they survey the shorelines at the mouth of the Severn River.

They are wonderful to see and hear when on guard as the boats slip past beneath their nests. But they are truly marvelous to watch as they hunt.

For a week or more, several schools of small bait fish -- bay anchovies, I think -- have been coursing along the edges of the channel into the creek.

The osprey seem only to watch as the bait fish meander, the tightly packed mass swirling the surface, their movements generally undisturbed by predators.

But should a handful of bait fish jump from the water, the osprey are quick to fly, holding high over the school and then dropping like stones into its midst to take a foot-long striper feeding from below.

Rarely do you see an osprey miss.

Can't tell them the fishing has been tough.

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