Trophy rockfish: the real thing

OUTDOORS

May 04, 1994|By PETER BAKER

It was Sunday -- opening day of the May season for trophy rockfish -- and the wind was coming up from the southwest, the tide was flooding and seas were just high enough to slop over the gunwale from time to time.

But after an early spring of fishing for yellow perch, white perch, ,, bluegill, crappie and black bass, it was good to have a real fish on, as yet unseen, but vigorously shaking its shoulders and stripping line from the reel as it ran away from the boat.

Despite the weather, the morning had the makings of a short, successful day.

An hour earlier, while the inboard warmed, the rods had been rigged, the cooler filled with ice and a few cold drinks and a sandwich, and we had headed out the Severn River, heading for the top of Gum Thickets.

The intention was to join the caravan of boats trolling the edge of the shipping channel off Kent Island, work south past Bloody Point and off Poplar Island before working the same water heading north.

Two big bunker spoons -- one polished steel and the other solid white -- had been set out in mid bay, trolling across the current, and the seas were being taken on the starboard quarter. Surface temperature of the water was 60 degrees, the bottom was starting to come up from more than 100 feet to 50, with the spoons in the top 10 feet of the water column.

Ahead, the caravan of boats was formed, and a hole in the line already had been picked out, and it would be a simple matter to blend in and go with the flow.

But spoons had not been in the water for more than 20 minutes when the port rod bowed deeply and the clicker chattered as a fish took the solid white lure and went deep.

Hot dog. No bluegill this.

The first big fish of the year is always a treat. The adrenalin pumps you, the seas slopping over the gunwales are forgotten and one concentrates on the rod tip, the line and the reel -- and wonders whether it all will hold together.

Had all the reel parts been replaced properly after their spring cleaning and oiling? Would the knots joining snap and barrel swivels in the leader hold?

Would this big sucker shaking and surging and as yet unseen strip enough line off the reel to expose the blood knot tied hurriedly in February when the top half of the spool was loaded with new line tied to the old?

Indeed it all did hold together, and as a bar of thick, black clouds rolled almost too quickly across the bay and began to spit rain, the striper was brought to the transom.

It was a modest fish, as trophy stripers go, 37 inches and 23 pounds, but it beat heck out of fishing for bluegills or yellow perch.

* Opening day was a messy affair, depending on where one fished and at what time. The morning was wet and windy. The afternoon was dry and windier.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, 75 trophies were reported on opening day, with an average size of about 37 inches.

The largest catch listed on DNR's catch report phone line (1-800-999-2800) was a 56 incher taken at Buoy 54.

A cap of 5,000 rockfish has been set for the spring season. Unless the cap is reached beforehand, the spring trophy season will run the month of May in the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay.

The minimum size limit is 34 inches, with no maximum. Fishermen who have purchased a $2 rockfish permit in addition to normal fishing licenses may take one fish per day and a total of three during the month.

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