Despite strong winds and rough water the first few days of this fall's rockfish (striped bass) season, middle bay-area anglers have been reeling with joy. From one end of the Chesapeake to the other, an empty-handed rockfish angler is a rare find.
Ray Bowman of Laurel managed to pull a 31 1/2 -inch rockfish from the popular Choptank Fishing Pier.
"I was over that way Saturday, but didn't fish because the pier and the river below were too crowded," he said. "Then, Sunday afternoon while watching the football game, it occurred to me that if I drove back over there late in the day it would probably be empty.
"I'll bet there weren't a dozen of us on the east end pier by 5 o'clock. I dropped an eel over the side and just let it swim around the pilings when, wham, this big baby hit my bait. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw it come to the surface."
A couple of friendly anglers helped him net the 10-pounder.
I went out with Captain Alan Faulkner and local rockfish enthusiasts Mark Manes, Gil Webber, Frank Baker and Jerry Ness on Monday. Manes claimed big-fish honors with a 29-incher that hit a chunk of cut spot that drifted in our chum line about midway between Poplar Island and Eastern Bay. We caught a total of eight and called it quits at 11 a.m. because of strong winds and rough water.
I've fished the first day of the fall rockfish season every year with Bob and Mary Carter of Stevensville and Dave and Yvonne Gardner, who drive from Hampstead in Carroll County, aboard Faulkner's Chelsie Lynn operating out of Tilghman Island.
I had to break our run this year for my daughter's wedding, but the Carters and Gardners kept up the tradition when they limited out in near-record time.
As good as the fishing has been to date, the winds notwithstanding, we soon will be remembering this first week or two as the slow time.
Keith Walters, nationally recognized as a top rockfish angler, said: "I've got a hunch that November is going to be out of sight this year. I hope this doesn't cause a big problem, but you know, the so-called recreational season will close Nov. 7, which is just about when I think we may see the rockfishing peak. Then, to really stir things up, the charter season will continue through the 21st of November."
Walters' new book should be sitting in your favorite tackle shop or newsstand right now and it's just what a lot of novice striped bass anglers have been asking for. "Catching Striped Bass" is a pocket-sized, 48-page treasure of rockfishing how-to and priced at $3.95.
The book covers tackle selection for trollers, surf casters, light-action spinners and fly casters, basic striped bass rigs and knots, trolling basics and a thousand other useful bits of information.
Hearing on crabbing rules
The Department of Natural Resources intends to sharply revise crabbing regulations by addressing recreational use of trotlines; collapsible crab traps and crab net rings; revising daily limits, limiting the number of crab pots shoreline property owners can set, and more.
Some limits will be placed on commercial crabbers, but recreational crabbers will see the bulk of revisions. You can speak up at the public hearing on Oct. 18 at the Department of Agriculture Headquarters ground-floor conference room at 7 p.m. Annapolis.
Anne Arundel bowhunters have bagged 23 deer since the Sept. 15 opening of the hunting season. The bow season will continue through Nov. 26, then resume Dec. 13-17 and Jan. 3-31.
Squirrel season kicked off Tuesday and will continue through Jan. 31 with a daily limit of six. Bushytails are abundant this year throughout Anne Arundel County.