Thursday, December 7

Captain and First Mate

"Get gas yesterday?", the carver asked, as he heaped pit barbecue on my plate. Small world, I thought, as I commented that I had to run down to Mears Point Marina in Oxford to take on fuel. I ran into this guy the day before at Easton Point as the pump ran dry and the gas trickling in my tank amounted to 52 cents. With another full tank onboard, I ran south to Oxford. The water was the color of tea, infused with fall leaves, and I had to swerve to avoid prop bending logs. It was three on a Friday and a late lunch for me. Earlier, I decided it was time to take a break from the grind, and take James out to wet a line. I gave him my best sell, describing fish actually jumping in the boat. He stopped me in mid sentence. "Can we go tomorrow? There is a dog jumping show I want to see. Do you want to come with us?", he exclaimed. My feeble salesmanship was pointless. Trying to sell the ride to this one would be like offering him tickets to pee wee football when he is sitting on the 50 yard line at the Super Bowl. With a large popcorn. As I grabbed my gear and walked out the door, I gave him a look of mock disappointment, but he did not bite. He did have one last hook for me. "Hey Dada?! I hope you have fun on the boat", he offered. The fall azure skies reflected in the mirror smooth water, as I broke a wide grin. At that moment, there was no place on Earth that I would rather be than at the helm of the MariJames. Captain and First Mate that day, I wore both titles with pride and joy.

Friday, October 6

Friendly Competition

The cottony clouds hung suspended in the azure background sky. A light wind breezed by as I started the Merc 90. That bubbling sound and a purr of the warm engine denotes the beginning of a time of pure pleasure. Not out to catch your dinner or provide passage, recreational boating is just that: recreation. Even if things do not go as planned, at the very least you are out exploring. We were out on our 170 Montauk and other family members were on their Pursuit 2470. It was to be a friendly competition: the biggest fish got the prize. As with most friendly competition, the prize is ancillary to the goal of being with each other having fun. The first weekend in October, the air and the water temperature were within five degrees, at 75 and 70 degrees, respectively. Fishing for stripers and bluefish, we decided to drift between buoy 12A and 13 in the Choptank River. We were using hi-lo rigs, which is a heavy leader with two hooks 10" from another, each on 8" of line and a 3 ounce sinker on the bottom. In close to 35' of water, we lower the rigs to 20-25' and methodically dip and lower the rod tip in a 5' arc. This dance, known as jigging, provides action for the rig. You have a heightened sense of touch as you dip the rod knowing these fish love to hit when the rig drops. As bait we were using peelers. Crabs that have not molted are generally called peelers. They are a delicacy of choice for striped bass and, of course bluefish, who eat anything. On a side note, the oily surface slicks can often be attributed to the appetite of the blues. Eating the equivalent of their body weight in a day, they will often purge the oily baitfish excess, as they do not know when to stop. For this, they are known as the Lindsay Lohan of fish. With no luck between the buoys we darted off to Chlora Point, trailing the faster boat, but having fun surfing their wake in our Whaler. With two other serious fishing boats near Chlora, we figured there was some action. We could tell they were serious as their rods bristled like antennae from the "rocket launcher" rod holders on the T-Tops of these twin engine sportfishers. We drifted and caught nothing in the 70' channel water. Our luck changes as we went back into Tred Avon. Fishing off of small points, where grass stretched out from backyards, my rod tip bent every five seconds after landing the peeler in the water. It was amazing! This was going on for ten minutes straight. I hoped to catch a keeper, but reeled in a 15" inch striper that threw the hook of the overly excited amateur (me) "Work the lock, don't look at the dogs", or concentrate on the task at hand and do not worry about what might happen. Better to be with family and friends and catch nothing then be alone with a cooler of fish. You tell me?

Tuesday, September 26

Montauk Point, Fishing Haven

At the tip of Long Island, New York lies Montauk Point. I have read it is a hot spot for striped bass, when they swim between Block Island and this jutting landform. The water is crystal clear of any effluents that turn southern waters brackish. Cold and rainy, I was in this part of New York for a wedding and did not have gear or time to fish. So what is the point of this post? You need only look at the commercial fishing trawlers docked in the harbor. Seagulls the size of Bay retrievers picking apart the remains of the catch entwined in the rolled nets of the empty, rocking boats. This is a place where fishing is not only a way of life, but it is part of the culture. I will need to return one day.

Thursday, September 21

Cool Water and Hot Fishing

The water temperatures in the Choptank River, below Oxford Maryland, are dipping below 75F. The number of fish on your line is inversely relative to the water temp. As the temperature has been dropping, the fishing is spiking. Striped bass, or rockfish, and 'slammer' bluefish are gorging on smaller baitfish as they make their way toward the Bay and out to sea. This is not the time to be writing about it, but out on the boat with tight lines, This is my first season in these waters and I look forward to many to come. Though I may come home empty handed some days, I will still be smiling spending time on the Eastern Shore Outdoors.