Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Last Call on the Little Patuxent

I have truly pressed my luck this fall.  I have been saltwater fishing when there was no salt, trout fishing after two hurricanes dumped 2 feet of rain on the stream in just a 9 day timespan, duck hunting on a flood tide....on open water, and bass fishing when I knew full well that oxygen levels and water temperatures were both through the basement.

I've made a good run of it, but nothing except the trout fishing has been at all productive. Still, I've really enjoyed my time on the water this fall, and I don't feel bad about getting skunked for the first time in 2011 on the Little Patuxent in central Maryland.

This sinuous coastal plain stream and its mosaic of beaver ponds and abandoned gravel pits were the first place I fished in Maryland in 2011; and where I enjoyed catching a nice number of largemouth before the aquatic vegetation took over in the late spring.  I hadn't even stopped here since May, and while I don't regret that, it took another visit to remember how special of a place it is.

I stopped by here on a day when a cold front was headed in - 64 degrees in the morning, and 37 in the evening.  Clouds pulled across the sky, and the tops of trees are nearly empty of leaves.  The aquatic vegetation has died back, which (as I mentioned) has caused dissolved oxygen levels to plummet - causing the equivalent of bass being poisoned by carbon monoxide.  Slooooooooow and unmotivated.

I worked through an enormous variety of lures for my light tackle spinning setup.  Hard plastics. Soft plastics. Everything inbetween.  A few nibbles, and one monstrous inhale of a plastic lizard bounced slowly along the bottom of the cold, black water. No fish hooked.

Everything about the outing was solitary. Leaves constantly falling.  Black ducks and mallards moving around the swamp, looking for food, well aware of the dropping barometer.

Summer has given up.  Winter is coming....and soon.  I wonder if this will be the last day I fish this year - it may well be.  Goose season begins in just a few days, and I know my mind will be consumed by it for the next 10 weeks.

I have some decisions to make about how, and when, and where, and how often to hunt this season.  As I grow older, these decisions have become insanely more complicated.   In fact, while I probably enjoy going outdoors more than I did 20 years ago (which must be hard to imagine if you knew me as a 6, or 10, or 18 year old), the act of making my outdoor adventures actually happen sometimes wears on me.  To do this means you won't be doing that. To spend time outdoors with these people means you'll miss seeing those people.  Even if I wanted to take those trade-offs lightly, I just can't ignore that they exist  - while I'm outdoors, my life is still happening somewhere else.  It's a serious concept.

Bearing that in mind, it is definitely time to get away from fishing for a few months and to focus, when I can, on bird hunting, a serious passion of mine.  Whether you like it or not, I'll be sharing with you some of my thoughts throughout the hunting season on how I'm able to negotiate some of these choices.  Curious about what, if any, mistakes I'll make.  It's almost show time, so I guess we'll find out.


Alex said...

I spend an absurd amount of time debating whether I should hunt or fish with what little time I have.

I have a feeling you'll be happy regardless of the decision though.

Does the fishing stay good up there all winter?

Kirk Mantay said...

For coldwater trout, yes. Warm fresh water? No. And not cold enough (in most of the state) for traditional ice fishing like they do farther north.

As for saltwater, the real action is near the warm water discharges from nuclear plants along the Ches Bay. And then along big structure at the mouth of the Bay, where it meets the ocean. If you've ever seen "Kayak Kevin's" blog in Va Beach - they fish the mouth of the bay for 50" stripers in the winter...in 25 degree weather and 40 degree water that's 30 feet deep.....in kayaks!

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