It's time to hunt, fish up a blues streak

OUTDOORS

September 12, 1993|By LONNY WEAVER

If you like to hunt and fish, you simply have to love this time of the year. Take Labor Day weekend, for example.

On Saturday, Wayne Albaugh and I finally got this year's dove season off to a running start with a super hunt near Union Bridge in western Carroll County.

We did our pre-hunt homework and arranged to hunt the only chopped cornfield in the area. The place drew doves like a magnet, and we had our limits within two hours.

Albaugh and I are equally enthusiastic about dove hunting, and we manage to get in at least one shoot a week through this early season. Thanks to a lot of goodwill, we have managed to gain access to some great shooting.

Unlike popular areas you might be familiar with on the Eastern Shore, very few people in Carroll County put aside a field area specifically for doves.

Oh, you'll see a sunflower field here and there, and you can bet it's leased by a group of hunters wanting dove action, but by and large, dove hunting here consists of hunting over freshly chopped cornfields.

Living in the Carroll area, Albaugh and I know through experience who chops corn for silage and about when they do it. These people know that we aren't going to shoot holes in their barn's roof, mistake a cow for a dove, invite the neighborhood along for an afternoon's shoot or the like. It's called being responsible and neighborly.

I got off to a rather slow start Saturday. After I missed the first five birds to whiz past my folding stool, you could have bought a pretty nice little 20-gauge pump at a reasonable price.

I finally got things going, though, and managed to keep embarrassment to a respectable level. Albaugh, who is a fine field shot, nearly had his allotted 12-bird limit before I had reached the halfway mark.

The weekend got better

As Dick Broden and I piled our golf clubs into his car's trunk Sunday afternoon he suggested that we tow his boat to the Sandy Point launching ramp and spend Labor Day "just checking the fish out."

Broden is turning into one of the area's better marlin anglers. He did quite well on both white and blue marlin last month, but being a weekend angler, he decided to play it safe and pull his 26-foot boat back to Howard County in the face of the hurricane that wasn't.

At Eastern Bay, we were greeted by schools of breaking bluefish and rockfish. They were mixed in together, so every time we cast into the boiling water, it was anyone's guess as to what we would hook.

You know we are not supposed to even fish-and-release for striped bass, but if you spend any time on the Chesapeake, you know how impossible it is not to hook a rock these days. Virginia already has a catch-and-release regulation in place, and one is long overdue here.

These were nice fish. The blues were going 2 to 4 pounds, and the rock that we managed to hook were all sizes. The smallest striped bass I brought alongside the boat before releasing it went about 12 inches, while the largest was easily 20 inches, with lots of 15- and 18-inchers thrown in, too.

There were maybe a dozen boats working these breaking schools. The routine was to watch for birds swarming the water's surface, racing to that spot and tossing a lure into the breaking school.

Traditionally, the local favorite for this type of excitement is the Atom popper plug, and you never will go wrong using it.

But, this year my top producer for breaking blues is the 3/4 -ounce Rat-L-Trap. I used a chrome-blue model and was out-fishing Broden, who was using a silver spoon. I gave him a red-and-white Rat-L-Trap, and he began matching me fish for fish.

After an hour of this, we decided to see what was happening to the south. We trolled and cast with mixed results around the mouth of the Miles River, outside of Poplar Island and down to the Stone Rock, where we saw a huge school of rays.

Broden suggested we go back to the Eastern Bay. What we found was even hotter breaking action than we had enjoyed earlier. Early afternoon had arrived, and so had a lot more boats. Still, it wasn't crowded.

"I'm amazed at the numbers of fish we're getting into," Broden said. "I haven't seen this part of the Bay looking this good in years."

We chased those breaking schools for more than two hours before calling it a day.

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