Sunday, December 27, 2009

Waiting out the Wind

Waiting Out the Wind
Fish are still biting, when the weather's right

By Dennis Doyle 12/9/2009
Originally Published in BayWeekly Magazine

I almost missed it. For over a week. I had wanted to get in one last white perch trip. But it just didn't look like it was going to happen. Those relentless winter winds were churning the surface of the Bay to a froth, and it appeared they had no intention of ever stopping.

Then one morning, the trees framing the skyline around my neighborhood sud­denly went still. I did­n't even notice until mid-morning. When I did, I ran to check the Thomas Point Light weather station web­site. The wind meter reports affirmed my fondest hopes. It was dead calm on the Chesapeake.

I phoned a fellow perch lover, Frank Tuma. Frank, a Magothy River charter skipper (, was shutting down his rock fishing operation for the season. But I knew that he also wanted to get in one last trip for perch.

These small fish are at their best this time of year, fat, delicious, still feeding up for winter and gathering in large, deep-water schools. If you're lucky, a full cooler of one of the best eating fish on the Bay is a distinct possibility.

We met at Frank's boat, Down Time, just past the crack of noon, armed with some short jigging rods, lures and a bag of bloodworms for insurance. A friend of Frank's, Rich Clark, joined us to add an extra rod to our efforts.

Cruising out the Magothy, we jumped on plane and headed toward the most likely spot for the whities this time of year: the Bay Bridge. It didn't take long to find the fish because there were a number of craft already there and obviously into them.

We eased up at the edge of the small fleet to drift along with a sharp eye toward the fish finder screen. When it lit up with the right marks, we dropped our rigs over the side.

The traditional Bay setup for this type of fishing is known as a trout bomb rig. Produced, and popularized many years ago by Captain Bernie Michael, it is a heavy, two-ounce feathered jig at the bottom of a two-foot leader. Added to the affair about 18 inches up from the bottom jig is a second, smaller, feathered lure. That is usually the perch catcher.

Easy as Perch
Dropping the rigs over the side, we worked, the lures by simply moving them sharply straight up and down with about a three-foot lift. We kept them close, to the bottom, careful to maintain just the slightest tension on the line during the drop back. That was when the bite was likeliest to occur.

You need a deft touch to consistently score with this setup. because you are working in 40- to 60-foot depths. That's a long-way down, and perch do not have a particularly violent bite. Even so, the. three of us were soon into the fish, and some of them were jumbos.

Rich was particularly adept at scor­ing big, thick black-backed perch. Several of his early fish measured over l1.inches. Frank and I, trailed until he finally nailed a whopper that topped 12”. That event seemed to turn the tide, as all three of us started getting larger fish. Anything under 10 inches went back over the side.

Within an hour, we had two buckets filled with the thick, chunky devils. Our wrists were sore from hauling them in. Frank cranked up the engines and head­ed the boat for home. At dockside, we were cleaning fish for some time.

The next day the winds returned and brought along a little freezing rain as well. It didn't bother me a bit. I had got my day in, and my rewards were already on the stovetop, rolled in bread­crumbs and sizzling in hot peanut oil.