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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)

Accompanying me today were a couple of friends from work, David B and David C, and they did not go home disappointed. It took all day, but we ended up with our three fish limit by 3 pm. With the weather blowing for the most part over the last 6 days or so, today was the first chance that I could get out since last Monday. David B has his own boat, and is a rockfishing veteran; I have been on his boat a couple times, and it was way overdue to have him on mine. David C is a big fisherman, and I mean big, and he and I have shared quite a few fishing adventures over the past few years.

We ran south to the area between 80 and 78 and the spread fully deployed at 7:55 am, but we did not get our first knockdown until 12:38 pm near Poplar. That first fish, a 35 inch female, hit the 2 oz bait of a 2/4 oz tandem back 80', and David C made short work of it. We were heading towards the north-east when the knockdown occurred, going against the current of all things.

I've been fishing with David C for several years, and have known him for many more

With that first fish on ice, and as we were just about finished with re-setting the lines, a 34 inch girl inhaled the 2oz bait of a "Skip special" (see below for spread details) while the rod was still in my hands! The fish hit at 12:52 pm as we were heading towards the north-east, but while we were making a left-hand turn towards the north-west. I stayed on the rod, and soon our second fish was on ice.

I felt a little bad having cut in line and having taken David B's fish, but in the end, the fishing gods exacted justice and righted things. At a little before 3 pm, the 6 oz bait of the newly deployed 6/9 oz chartreuse combo got completely inhaled by an absolute cow. David B took the rod, and pretty soon, our third and final fish, a 41½" 25 pound behemoth was on the deck of Unfinished Business. The rod in use for our third fish was one of Pop's old 1970's vintage Penn reels on a modern Penn slammer rod. This same reel has caught hundreds of blues back in the day, and so in honor of the blues, I have named this combo "Lucille" after BB King's guitar.

David B has his own boat and is quite the accomplished at rockfishing

The skies were sunny and a bit hazy; morning air temperatures were in the mid 60's and ended up in the mid to high 70's in the afternoon on the bay, and it was downright hot when we arrived at the dock with temperatures soaring into the mid to high 80's. The winds were almost a carbon copy of last Monday, and started out light and variable in the morning from calm to less than 5 knots out of the south-east, and increased in the early afternoon to 8 to 12 knots in the early afternoon. The bay ranged from flat in the early hours to a 1-foot chop on top of 1 foot rollers by the end of the day.

High tide at Sharps Island Light was at 9:58 am, low tide was at 4:55 pm, and the moon was 52% visible. The water temperature ranged from 54º to 56º out on the bay and was 60º in the South River at 4:30 pm.

Our spread was still: All singles off the port board, 2oz chartreuse back 100', 4 oz white back 80', and 6 oz chartreuse back 60'. All tandems off the starboard board, 2/4 oz white back 100', 2/4 oz chartreuse back 80', and at 60' back a "Skip Special" consisting of an all white 6 oz Alien with silver tinsel with a 9" see-through green glitter shad in tandem with a 2 oz Alien with a purple head and chartreuse hairs with a 9" pearl shad, all available at Marty's. Our boat rods were once again a white 24 oz BFG cannonball chute from Marty's with a 6-arm white umbrella back 50', and a 20 oz Chesapeake Bay Lures paddle tail in chartreuse with a 6-arm chartreuse umbrella back 60' on a BPS offshore rod fitted with Pop's old Penn reel from the 1970's. The WWB was, as always this time of year, Skip's recipe consisting of a tandem 11/0 silver crippled alewife on a 30 foot leader with extra Sampos, and a white 3 oz chute on a 9 foot leader back 300'. In the early afternoon we added two additional inside planer rods, each back 40 feet, and it ended up paying off big time: a 6/9 oz chartreuse tandem aliens off the port board, and a single 12 oz chartreuse Chesapeake Bay Lures paddle tail off the starboard board.

It took all day, but we did it! I'm a legend in my own mind!:clap:

Just like last week, most of the bait that we marked was on the eastern side of the bay, but we never saw any of the coveted bait balls. We were back at the dock, had the boat pulled, had the equipment washed and were cleaning fish by a little after 5 pm. Details can be found below.


The Detailed Breakdown

A Hunch About the Weather

Just like last week, a look at the weather forecast the previous day had me contemplating canceling. The forecast called for 10 to 15 knot winds out of the south with gusts to 20 and 2 foot waves. I mulled it over, called David and David, and told them that I would check the weather buoy data the following morning at 4:15 and then make the call. I had a hunch that we might get a window of fair weather, and it turned out that I was right. The morning weather observations showed a gentle breeze of less than 5 knots, and waves of half a foot. Even a blind squirrel will eventually find a nut.

What a Spectacular Morning!

A Good Luck Sign :clover:
When I got to the marina, I was greeted by a welcoming committee of tree swallows zipping to and fro and a chorus of white throated sparrows. Lake Ramsey resembled a mirror, and the wind was still. I smiled, and thought to myself "Hmmm, swallows! That's good luck!" as I backed the truck to the boat. Seeing swallows and their zipping, darting antics has always brought me good luck, and there is scientific theory behind it, at least with freshwater fishing. Swallows feed on insects, and when swallows are flying over the water, there are insects hovering over the water. Some insects fall into the water, and small fish feed on insects. Big fish, such as largemouth bass, feed on the small fish.

Meeting the Crew
On the other hand, seeing turkey vultures (those nasty scavengers that some refer to as "buzzards") at the ramp has brought me and some others bad luck. No turkey vultures today, but just after I backed the boat down the ramp, a blue heron flew from right to left across Lake Ramsey, and just after I spotted David C's vehicle pulling into the parking lot, an osprey carrying a fish flew overhead. David B pulled into the lot a few minutes later. The tide this morning was exceptionally low, which made for an interesting launch, but it was made much easier with the assistance of David and David. Before long, we had the boat fully loaded and the power plant of Unfinished Business was idling and purring like a content kitten.

Once again, we got lucky and the morning started out like this

Ghost Fog! :eek2:
As we headed out at 6 miles per hour, the work banter started as the sun rose above the horizon over Lake Ramsey. We passed under the low bridge, and were soon heading out of the South River, and onto a flat bay at 38 miles per hour. We ran south for about an hour to the area of 80 and 78, and as we approached 78, a boat pulling planer boards simply disappeared. The boat was there one moment about a quarter mile away, and then is simply vanished as if it were a ghost ship. It was very surreal, and I wasn't even sure that the boat had even been there in the first place. "Fog bank! You may want to back off of that throttle!" David B shouted above the din of our 2-stroke Yamaha. I snapped out of my own fog, and backed down the throttle to about 4 miles per hour.

I was wondering why I could not see red number 78 noidea, and now I knew. We approached the fog bank at trolling speed and entered the shroud. The bay was flat and it was eerily silent; we could not see more than 10 or 20 yards in any direction. We were south of #80 and about 1½ miles north-west of #78. "This is where having that radar would come in handy" David B observed. I slowed the boat to a couple miles per hour and we listened. We could hear a distant outboard, but no one could tell exactly from where it was coming. Suddenly, a planer board came into view off the port bow, and then the 24 foot walk-around pulling it appeared in the pall. I put the boat in neutral and caught my breath. After a couple jokes about pirates coming out of the fog, we decided to deploy the boards, deploy the spread, and gingerly head towards the west where the fog was not as thick.

This picture is misleading, there are other fishing boats somewhere out there!

An Ominous Sound
We had the boards deployed and a couple lines set when we heard the distant drone of a very large diesel engine. "I don't like the sound of that! I'd hate to get jumped by a big-ass tanker in the middle of this channel" David B exclaimed. "That could get ugly in a hurry!" I answered. We continued to deploy the spread as we headed west, and by 7:55 the entire spread was deployed. We figured that the fog would burn off soon, and before long, our visibility improved somewhat. Soon, a land mass appeared out of the fog; the fog was very disorienting, but we soon realized that we were seeing the western shore. A quick check of the meter showed a depth of 39 feet, and so we started a slow turn back towards 78.

Relieved and Relaxed
As the visibility continued to improve, we started to see more and more boats with their trolling spreads deployed, and by 8:15 am, the fog was gone by and large and the wind had picked up a little. We were relieved. That fog was a little scary to say the least; the last thing that we needed was a mishap due to extremely low visibility. We continued our trek to the south-east with the current towards 78 in what had become a gentle chop and looked for bait, all the while keeping as far away from other boats as we could. Like last week, bait seemed to be concentrated on the eastern side.

A Conversation with Pop, but No Joy from the Rockfish
We made several sweeps from east to west over the next couple hours without so much as a knockdown. We broke out the donuts early as soon as the spread was deployed, but the fish apparently did not get the memo. I called Pop at about 9:30, and told him where I was and what we were doing, which led to the usual reminiscing of our days in the 1970's on these very waters. :thumbup: I bid Pop farewell, and reminded him that he and I would be doing the same thing this coming Friday if the weather was kind. Pop was very excited at the prospect of going back out onto the bay, and really did not need to be reminded about our upcoming trip. This goes without saying, but I relish these talks with Pop. After I got off the phone with Pop, we checked the boat rods for jellies, and they were both clean.

The donuts did eventually work today, but there was a delayed reaction

If Only We Could Find Some Bait Balls!
At 10 am, we realized that it was slack tide, and so we decided to start our long, slow zigzag troll north back to the South River. We were biding our time. We knew that soon, the current would start to move, and that our chances of a knockdown would improve. We started marking sporadic concentrations of bait between the CP buoy and the radar towers, and we made several passes through it to no avail. We decided to continue our northward troll in search of more fertile grounds. "Bait balls, bait balls, if only we could find some bait balls" I said aloud as we plodded on north-eastward towards the south end of Poplar. It was now a little past 11 am, and both the tide and wind were starting to pick up and move in opposite directions.

A Tangle, and Ditching the WWB
The wind was now a steady 10 to 12 knots out of the south-east. This combination of wind and current caused our baits to be carried to the starboard side, and before we knew it, the outside port planer line back 100 feet had popped loose from its clip and was dead astern and had become tangled with the WWB rod. Both lines were retrieved and untangled, and after a few expletives and choice words, :censored: they were re-set. Resetting the lines revealed not a single jelly on any of the lines, and only a small piece of seaweed on one of the 3-way swivels. "This way, way back line is either hot or cold, and today it's cold." I announced. "The way these lines are behaving, if we leave this way, way back out, it could be a recipe for disaster. I'm losing it now!" I added. With that, the WWB was retrieved and put away. I took a little good-natured ribbing from David and David about being totally absorbed with my task as I broke out the brush and combed the hairs of the WWB chute.

The Social Aspect of Trolling and a Welcome Interruption :yes:
We were starting to get hungry, and so we all broke into lunch as morning gave way to early afternoon. By high noon, we were north of Chesapeake Beach and the CP buoy and were a few miles south-west of buoy 82. As we all noshed on our lunches, the boat continued its north-east heading on auto pilot. Without so much as a strike so far, I was beginning to concede the skunk. :surrender: "Oh well. I had a one-trip winning streak, I just hope that this skunk stuff doesn't continue into the next trip" I thought to myself. It was now about 12:30 pm, and the three us of were talking shop and enjoying the day. This was the social aspect of trolling. We were no longer focusing on the lines, and were immersed in enjoyable conversation and enjoying a beautiful and relaxing day on the bay. :thumbup:

Our conversation was suddenly interrupted at 12:38 pm as we were less than a mile from buoy 82, interrupted by a very familiar sound, the sound of a rod banging in its holder as a lure is being inhaled by a rockfish. "Oh there it is, fish on! David, you're up!" I exclaimed as the 2/4 oz chartreuse tandem back 80' popped from its clip and tracked towards the stern. The rod strained and danced violently under the strain of a large fish, and it was a beautiful sight. The lazy afternoon suddenly became a beehive of activity as attention was now focused on the starboard side and stern of the vessel. David C removed the rod from its holder as David B manned the net. My heart was racing as I grabbed the camera and began filming the event and hooted with approval.

"Oh we finally got one on, thank goodness!" I said, prompting David B to say "He ate the donut!, It's been him all day long!", insinuating in jest that David C was causing the skunk up to this point. "I had to leave my donut! Don't touch my donut!" added David C as he continued his retrieve. "Oh, you busted into the donut?!" I quipped. The fish broke the water about 40 feet off the stern as the battle continued and I hooted with approval. "Don, you sure are an excitable ba:censored:tard" quipped David B as the other David continued his retrieve; the David on the net was 100% right. My heart continued to pound as I continued filming and the battle continued. "Just one fish, let us just catch this one fish" I pleaded silently.

The fish broke the surface again, and soon, the David manning the net announced seeing a leader. The fish was brought alongside the boat, and David B made short work of hoisting David C's trophy aboard. The skunk was out of the box, it had taken nearly five hours, but the skunk was gone! We all exchanged high fives and handshakes, and a couple pictures were taken before the fish was iced down. I then cracked a celebratory beer.

David C and his trophy

A Surprise Encore and an Act of Selfishness
We next went to work resetting the lines starting with the retrieval of the 60 foot line to permit the resetting of the 80 foot line. With the planer line cleared, the 80 foot line was reset followed by the 60 foot line with the 2/6 oz "Skip special". We were now less that a half mile from 82, and were starting a left hand turn to make another pass over our mark. I got the 60 foot clip part of the way down the planer line when it seemed to hang up a bit and would not move any further. "What the heck is wrong with this thing, it seems to be stuck!" I said. noidea David C plucked the planer line like a guitar string and a couple seconds later, the clip popped loose. "Oh for crying out loud, it popped loose, and now I need to reset it!" I quipped. It was now 12:52 pm, scant minutes after our first fish was iced.

The line sliced through the water towards the stern, the line became tight, and the rod bowed then twitched. "What the heck? I don't believe this! I think there's a fish on this thing! Holy cow!" Just then, my rod-hogging 15-year old inner self emerged. "David, would you mind if I take this one?" David nodded yes, but immediately I knew that this was wrong. :nono: I was cutting in line in front of my guest. "I've haven't caught one yet on the Skip special, and this is the first one" I said. It was a cheesy excuse, but I continued my retrieve. Soon, David B was slipping the net under the 34-inch girl, and she was brought aboard. A couple pictures were snapped, the fish was iced down, and the line was re-set. I felt good and I felt bad at the same time. A second fish was on ice, but I was being a sucky host; what I had done was wrong. Later, I told David that the third fish would be a 44-inch cow, and that it was destiny that we would catch it. I only hoped that I was right, but I was pretty sure that I would be wrong.

Deploying Extra Planer Lines in the Lee
We seemed to be getting into a lee courtesy of Poplar Island and the Eastern Shore. Gone were the swells, and all that remained was a 1 foot chop. I decided to mix it up and put out two additional inside planer rods, each back 40 feet: a 6/9 oz chartreuse tandem aliens off the port board on my bluefish combo named "Lucille", and a single 12 oz chartreuse Chesapeake Bay Lures paddle tail off the starboard board. Chartreuse seems to be my hot color this season, and we had nothing to lose in this lee. We circled around our mark several more times, but we had gone to the well once too often. The brief bite in the area ended as soon as it had begun.

The Day was Growing Short
We continued our long, slow return north at about 2:30 or so, and the day was growing short. Our window of opportunity was starting to close, and I was feeling like a heel for reeling in David's fish. We were now directly east of Poplar and heading due north in about 60 feet of water. David B had been driving the boat since the second fish hit, and I now took the helm. About 10 minutes later, I engaged the autopilot and began the task of retrieving the lines starting with the 40 foot inside starboard board line. I then went to work on the inside port rod. I picked up Lucille and attempted to retrieve the line. It was stuck fast, and would not budge easily. I feared the worse; I feared that this line had become tangled badly with another.

We May Have Found Jimmy Hoffa
"Oh ****! I think I got a snag! I think this line is snagged!" I then called up to the bow "Could someone get on this port boat rod and help me retrieve this mess?" As David B was making his way to the stern, the planer clip on Lucille broke free and the line shot out towards the planer board. "Son of a bi:censored:ch! We may have a real mess on our hands; this thing could be buggered up with multiple lines! I said in disbelief. Something didn't seem right. The line was straining under a heavy load, but as I retrieved line, none of the other lines moved as pressure was relieved. "I think I got a big old log on this thing, or a dead guy or something! I think we snagged Jimmy Hoffa."

Bending the Strings with Lucille
As David and David looked on, the rod suddenly twitched, changed directions, and headed back towards the starboard side. "What the heck? A dead guy doesn't do this. Wait a minute! David, come here and take this! I think we have one on and you're up!" I announced. Things started to move in slow motion as my heart once again started racing and I groped for the camera. Meanwhile, David C grabbed the net and stood by. Line sliced through the water from port to starboard as whatever it was that we had passed behind the stern. :thumbup:

I started filming as all eyes faced rearward. Suddenly, a large striper broke the surface in the prop wash. "Holy cow! That thing is a toad!" I said. The fish made a break for freedom just off the stern and prevented it from being netted on the first retrieve. The rod strained under the weight of the large fish; David was bending the strings with Lucille. "Holy Toledo, that thing is a cow!" I added as I continued filming. The fish continued the thrash and lunge mere feet from the stern in her bid for freedom as David struggled to net it. "Don't lose that!" I pleaded with David and David. This was one of those moments where time stood still; I wanted to right a wrong. The fish was deep hooked, and she was suddenly tiring. David slipped the net under her and brought her aboard! "Oh yeah! Oh yeah! There you go David! I am reprieved" I hooted with joy as the large fish was brought aboard. With the 41½" 25 pound cow safely aboard, we all once again exchanged high fives and handshakes.


Winding Down and Heading Home
It was now just after 3 pm, and we had limited out. It had taken us a little over eight hours, but we had limited out. Even a blind squirrel will eventually find a nut. This last, magnificent fish had been deep hooked, and was bleeding pretty badly. The deck of Unfinished Business resembled that of an offshore tuna boat. We took a few more pictures, and then teamed up to bring in lines and clean up. The wind laid down a bit, making retrieval of the planer boards an easier proposition. At almost 3:45, I cracked another beer and pointed the boat in the direction of the South River.

It was after 4:30 when we were passing under the skinny bridge and entering Ramsay Lake, and we were back at the dock at about 4:45. We had the boat pulled and the gear all washed within a half hour. We took a few more pictures, and David B and I took turns cleaning fish. By 5:30, the fish were all cleaned, and we had split up the fillets. I bid my guests farewell, and took Unfinished Business out for a drink. I dropped the boat off back at the marina with a full tank of gas in her, and unhooked her. It was 6:25 pm, the sun was approaching the horizon, and the tree swallows were once again resuming their antics, darting to and fro chasing and catching insects. I was dog tired, but I smiled. Both the swallows and the donuts had done their job and had brought us good luck.


Koah Roller Speargun, 100 Euro
2,937 Posts
Nice report Don. Gotta hand it to ya staying out there for 8+ hours, but you were well rewarded....Don

Premium Member
26,291 Posts
Way to hang in there and keep trying - look's like your patience was well rewarded.

Be sure David C gets entered into the Md Fishing challenge for that big Rockfish.

Tidal Fish Subscriber - I'm cool
6,372 Posts
AGAIN a really excellent report and pictures to go with it. You really should be writing for a publication.Good read.Congrats to all and I can't wait for the continuing saga,Thanks.

839 Posts
Like Tolmaz said That is a report. I love stories like this while I am stuck at work and a million honey dos on the weekends lately.
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