Wayne Hizer's 52-inch striped bass was the winning catch in the eighth annual Chesapeake House Inn and Restaurant Pro-Am Fishing Tournament on Tuesday.
Hizer, a businessman from Pittsburgh, landed the fish from the ++ deck of Captain John Motovidlak's Retriever II charter based out of Tilghman Island. The 45-pound rockfish hit a trolled 9/0 green Crippled Alewive near the C&R; Buoy.
The trophy fish already had spawned -- she was empty of her eggs -- when she lost the battle to Hizer.
I have been fortunate to be an invited pro at this tourney since its inception. When the event began in 1985 and through 1988, we " primarily hooked up with bluefish -- big bluefish -- and lots of them.
Then, though the event always takes place about the same time each May, we began a hot and cold cycle when you just couldn't count on catching anything. Blues would appear and disappear with no identifiable pattern.
Things began to change again last year when it seemed that we could not keep striped bass off our lures. A couple of blues were caught, but I don't recall a single rock caught during the tournament that met or exceeded the magic 36-inch legal size limit for the spring season.
This year, not a single blue turned up, but the rockfishing was superb with lots of keepers put in the fish boxes.
The second-place fish, for instance, was Scott McGill's 48-incher caught aboard Captain Steve Ramsey's Lady Luck. Minutes after McGill's trophy was caught, McGill's fishing pal, John Scozio, had a 38-incher nail his two-tone blue Crippled Alewive. Captain Ramsey, who fishes out of
Bush River during the summer months, put the two Huntington, Pa., anglers onto their keepers at the C&R; Buoy.
The same buoy remained hot until after Captain Bud Harrison's charter, the Beaudacious, could pull a green Parachute lure over another 38-inch rock. This one was reeled in by Bill Segar of Oxford on the Eastern Shore. The Parachute, which is not that well known around the bay, is similar to the familiar Sea Witch.
I fished with a couple of pals this year -- Keith Walters and Bill Perry, aboard Keith's Backlash. Walters is the author of the rockfishing book, "Chesapeake Stripers." Perry is the co-founder the Easton Waterfowl Festival.
I may be the junior member of the trio, but let the record show that at least I was able to hook a rock for this tournament.
At 24 inches-plus, it came up short in the legal keeper department, but that's what keeps a half-million Maryland anglers coming back for more.
My fish hit an unlikely looking Kalin's Big'N soft plastic bait impaled on a 9/0 jig head near the surface near Buoy 82. Ugly, but effective.
, I released the fish unharmed
and will keep my eyes peeled for him next May.
The big question still centers around whether the bluefish will return this year.
Huge schools are being reported nearing the entrance to the Chesapeake and equally large schools of baitfish also are poised to turn left off the ocean. Whether they do is anybody's guess.
They should be heading up the bay right now, but as I write this, only an occasional one is turning up around the Point Lookout area.
Within the next two weeks or so, depending on the weather, bottom fishing will be getting under way.
You may or may not be aware that emergency legislation took effect this past week that reduced the minimum croaker size from 10 inches to 9 inches and placed a creel limit on this popular bay fish at no more than 20 croakers per person per day.
Meet some fishermen
Want to meet some anglers as crazy about saltwater fishing as you are? Drop by a local Maryland Saltwater Sportsmen's Association meeting this week.
The Annapolis chapter will meet Wednesday evening at 7:30 at the Liberty Yacht Club in Annapolis.
Help a wildlife sanctuary
On Saturday, you can become part of the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary family by participating in volunteer training session from 9 a.m. to noon.
This is for folks from age 12 to adult, and the training will qualify participants to assist in animal care, art work, visitor center hosts/hostesses, gift-shop staffing, etc. The sanctuary is in Upper Marlboro.