Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Traditions - Of Bait Hunks and Bottom Rigs

Anybody know what this is? Yeah, I thought you might.  When this writing prompt popped up on the Outdoor Bloggers Network, I was honestly stumped.  I've had God's gift of 37 years living very different lifestyles in different places across the Mid-Atlantic.   Many things that were summer traditions of my youth, like catching crabs, or buying live crabs, or serious saltwater fishing, are just not part of our summer anymore because we don't live on saltwater (sorry, central Marylanders, just because it's salty 90 days a year does not make it saltwater) and because we don't have the disposal income to go spend time there, which hurts almost as much as living away from the coast.  So let's run down the list of memories.

Fishing with bottom rigs
Sometimes, you just want to catch fish.  No lures.  Certainly, no flies.  I'm talking 2 size 1 hooks, 2 hunks of critter, and a 3oz weight. KERPLUNK.  Who knows what'll come up next? Flounder? Sea trout? Sea robin (yikes)? A shark on each hook?  Or Croaker Fest 2011?  It's all possible using this extremely low rent method of fishing.  As a kid it was in Black Point Canal in Chincoteague, residential canals in the Outer Banks, and occasionally at home in the Poquoson and York Rivers.   Can you fish with bottom rigs in the winter? Sure, but we didn't. Pops was never a "stand out in the freezing cold for hours on end" kind of guy.

When I was in college and grad school, bottom rigs were my one way to (attempt to) guarantee that our party would have fresh, wild seafood to eat, regardless of the ridiculousness of our beach camping accomodations.  Sure, occasionally I lethally guthooked a flounder that was not "of legal size," whatever that means, and out of responsibility, I had to keep them and be willing to bear the possible ticket.  Whatever.

One of my first saltwater solo days was a morning on the outside of South Carolina's St. Helena Sound.  On the surface, it looks like the ocean, which really begins two miles to the east.  But the bottom is covered in sand and big hunks of shell. In a short amount of time, I caught some of the biggest flounder of my life, three species of sharks, and a gigantic catfish.  The landowner didn't believe the catfish, even when he saw it. What a day that was - I was finishing up a job and getting ready to start grad school in a few weeks.  Perfect therapy.

I can also remember a special day -  just about 13 months later - with my best man Adam and I believe my brother T (maybe brother A too??) in Virginia Beach, where we were fishing Rainy Gut on a strong incoming tide.  Bottom rigs? Check. Fresh shrimp from the grocery store? Check.  What followed was about 3 hours of mayhem, checking dozens of undersized sea trout and flounder, de-hooking sea robins and oyster toads, and enjoying some tasty beers on state property (where I used to be a park ranger - take that!!).  We had all been surfing that morning, which I'm sure made for some hilarious, exhausted banter.

I hardly ever bait fish anymore.  I work way harder than that for fish that on some days would not be considered worthy of a bottom rig.   After all, I'm a sportsman. If I lived on real saltwater, I'm sure I'd fish it quite a bit.....and for big fish.  But I'd be lying to you if I said that there wouldn't be a ziploc baggie full of steel bottom rigs somewhere in my spiffy 24' xtra-wide skiff. 

And after you strike out on your saltwater flies, giant plugs, and stinky plastics, you can borrow one of my bottom rigs.  How many croaker do you wanna catch?


tugboatdude said...

bottom rig fishing is much like freshwater bobber fishing.It works,it always has and it always will.It's cheap for sure but it's the easiest way to bring food home.

Gretchen Steele said...

Couldn't agree with Tugboat more... have kept the larder, the freezer, the grill and half the neighborhood in fish my whole life from bottom fishing...had my bottom lines out just last night, cause it's summer and the big cats are biting :)

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