Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why I Don't Understand the Chesapeake Striped Bass Opener

I have nothing against opening days....trout, duck, turkey, baseball.  All good things.  Opening days evoke feelings of a new season, of a disruption in the doldrums.  It's good stuff.

I also have nothing against striped bass fishing.  I've caught many over the years, in fact.  From the beach. Offshore.  Nearshore.  From a kayak.  Even from fishing piers.  They aren't the most exciting fish to catch, or the most prized seafood, but I admit, there's something alluring about catching a 40" bass in one foot of water on a saltwater popper.  In my mind, this is what an ideal day of striped bass, or "rockfish" fishing is all about:

Photo: Jim Klug - Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures

But here's what opening day of "Rockfish" season looks like in the Chesapeake Bay:

Photo: Lateral Line Blog (Easton, MD) 

Thousands of boats in the water - many of them piloted by owners who have not piloted a boat since last year's early season, also known as the "Trophy" rockfish season.   Game wardens everywhere.   Almost guaranteed tough winds (East 15-25 kt this year), cold water (48 degrees), and very few fish.

Let me describe how the day generally goes:

2:30am: wake up, shower.

3:00am - 4:30am: put $75 of gas in truck.  drive to boat ramp/marina with 5 friends, to where "reports say" the fish have been biting.  put $500-$1000 of fuel in the boat if you were foolish enough not to do so the day before.

4:30am - 5:30am:  wait in line at boat ramp/marina; enjoy slow and bumpy ride out to main channel

5:30am - 6:30am:  ride around in 2-3' waves in the dark, trying to pick up schools of striped bass 30 feet below the surface.   Rig up planer boards, umbrella rigs, trolling rods.  Deploy at legal time to fish.

6:30am - 7:00pm:  ride around chasing what "look like" birds on the water, blow $1,000 in boat fuel, $150 in marina or boat ramp catch one legal striped bass.  "Catching" involves seeing that a rod is bent over, and successfully working the drag so that the fish doesn't throw the hook before reaching the boat net. I'm not saying it's  easy.  But it's not throwing a fly or a plug to a fish from a light rod.  The boat is just driving around with the tackle deployed behind you. 

9:30pm:  arrive home with the promise that your buddy will cut you a piece of the filet of the one bass that was put in the cooler.

Compare that to the opening day of spring gobbler season, which occurs around the same week of the year:

4:00am: wake up, throw boots on, make coffee.
4:30am-5:30am:  put $25 of gas in truck.  drive to turkey hunting spot.
5:30am-7:00am:  watch the sunrise while sitting against a fallen tree in the woods.  Listen to the birds sing.  Hear the turkeys gobble.  Watch the season's first snakes, toads, and turtles look for food in the woods.
7:00am-12:00pm:  Feel the cool forest floor grow warm.  See the wind in the tops of the trees and chuckle at not having to be out on the water that morning.  Hopefully get the chance to work some turkeys with calling and decoys.   Maybe even get a shot at one.
12:01pm:  legal hunting ends, do a tick check, grab a quick lunch and drive home.
1:01pm:  arrive home.

I mean, come on, which trip sounds like more fun?

Photo: Ken Neil - Healthy Grin Sportfishing

Call me a wuss, but if you need to wear a survival suit to go fishing, it just might be too cold!'s too cold for me, that's for sure. Kudos to the hardcore who are getting out there after the fish! I'll be in the ponds, bogs, and woods until the Bay warms up a bit more!


BrookfieldAngler said...

I feel the same way about our local trout openers. Every year the Illinois DNR stocks various ponds/lakes with catchable rainbow trout.

Every year, on "opening day", it's a circus. Lines of cars are waiting at the entrances and by sun-up, the banks are packed with "fishermen" who are all shoulder to shoulder.

No thanks - I'd rather get a root canal

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