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?