The line on rockfish: slim pickings so far

OUTDOORS

October 16, 1994|By LONNY WEAVER

Striped bass (rockfish) fishing remains a hit-or-miss affair throughout the mid-Chesapeake Bay area.

I fished the mid-Choptank River on Wednesday afternoon with Keith Walters and David Navarre. We managed to hook about 30 rockfish, but only one beat the 18-inch minimum-size limit.

Walters, who has a new book titled "Chesapeake Boogaloo, Fish Scales, Game Trails and Puppy Dog Tales," finds it difficult to accept the belief that we have a recovered striped bass fishery.

"Old-timers like me remember what rockfishing was like before the bottom dropped out," said Walters as he steered his boat out of Broad Creek. "Right now, we should be seeing schools of breaking rockfish measuring at least 100 yards wide and a mile long from one end of the Choptank to the other. Instead, just look around -- there's not a bird or surface fish in sight."

We stopped at Benoni Point and let the boat drift down current as we cast into the rocky shoreline. On my first cast a 17-incher took my chartreuse jig and matching twistertail just as I began retrieving line.

We were using light spinning tackle and 6- to 10-pound test lines, so a rockfish this size gave me plenty of fight. Walters stretched the fish along the measuring tape, announced the bad news and gently slipped it overboard.

Each of us followed up this catch with a couple of 15-inchers before we moved further up river.

We fished mostly shoreline and rocky bottom up river to Hambrooks Bar at Cambridge, then ran over to under the Choptank River Bridge to confer with local guru Chuck Prahl, PTC

who was drifting big live minnows with deadly effect.

Prahl fishes this area almost daily year-round.

"They're 15 feet down and hard against the pilings," he said. He had hooked and released four just under the minimum-size limit.

This is a difficult place to fish because of the speed of the current. The fishing pier anglers have been doing reasonably well here, so you may want to grab some minnows and give the place a try. We made a few difficult and unsuccessful drifts and headed back to the shorelines.

We fished along Hambrooks Bar, down past the launching ramp at Great Marshy Point, then, with the sun setting, headed back toward Broad Creek, stopping and fishing and hooking more feisty, but under-sized, rock along the way.

The Department of Natural Resources has announced that the fall striped bass season will continue through Nov. 22, and I suspect that we will see a dramatic improvement in fishing results this second month.

Rockfishing in the lower Bay, below Point Lookout started out great and has improved with each week. I think that's the area I would center on if the family chef insisted on a rock for the table.

So much to do, so little time

Hunting and fishing activities leave little time for office or home chores this time of the year.

Squirrel hunting has been great and will get even better once the leaves begin to fall in earnest.

Dove season continues through Saturday, and I've enjoyed great shooting throughout central and southern Maryland as recently as last weekend.

Bass fishing on Loch Raven, Prettyboy, Piney Run and Liberty reservoirs has been great and the tidal Potomac, as well as the upper portion of that river, has been crazy with largemouth and smallmouth action.

I didn't have the opportunity to get in on this week's three-day duck hunt, but I understand it was great. And a prior commitment to go surf fishing on Assateague Island, where the striped bass fishing has been notable this week, will shut me out of this week's early muzzleloader deer hunt.

Also, there are good numbers of sea ducks in the area right now and this is the perfect time to schedule a "cast 'n blast" trip (striped bass and sea duck combination).

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