I spent a wonderful day on the Choptank River with my friend Keith Walters late last week.
Walters, who grew up in Glen Burnie, spent most of his adult life in Cape St. Claire. He lives in retirement with his wife, Carol, in Bozman on the Eastern Shore.
Considered by many to be one of the nation's top striped bass (rockfish) anglers, Walters at one time held the Maryland rockfish record with a 32 1/2 -pounder that hit his Atom plug at Love Point.
"Remember the last day or so of the season last year when we had rock practically jumping out of the water and into the boat?" he asked the moment I picked up my phone.
"Well, if you can get over here tomorrow about 8 in the morning, I think we can have the same kind of day."
The day wasn't quite as good as last fall's memorable trip, but I wasn't disappointed.
Joining us aboard Walters' boat was Bill Wright of Cambridge and his son, Danny. Danny helped Walters with the layout of his best-selling booklet, "Catching Striped Bass."
As Walters took us down Broad Creek, in the direction of the Choptank River, he said, "These fish really turned on yesterday afternoon right at the mouth of the creek. I understand that the wind is pretty tough further down the Choptank, around Black Walnut Point, so if we don't get into them farther out here, we'll work up river."
The prospects didn't appear bright as we cleared Broad Creek. We hadn't seen a feeding gull, nor heard an optimistic radio report, though we did get a false alarm thanks to a large flock of loons swarming above the water's surface.
We eventually made the short run up river and located nearly two dozen private and charter boats trolling in the area of Castle Haven and Todd's Point. We recognized Captain Alan Faulkner and inquired as to what was going on. Faulkner, who is one of the better middle-Bay captains and a favorite of mine, said that fishing was slow, but anglers were picking up the occasional keeper rock by trolling deep.
Captain Buddy Harrison, running the Pleasure Merchant out of Tilghman Island, heard our inquiries and suggested that we drag a Parachute lure if we had one.
"Isn't it strange how certain lures get hot and previously proven lures are tossed aside?" Walters said.
Bill Wright agreed. "Remember when nobody would be caught dead fishing anything other than a spoon of some sort? Then it was hoses."
Walters said, "Well, these Parachutes are the thing this year, and they are nothing more than a variation of the Sea Witch that is so popular among deep-water anglers."
I noted that one of the top Chesapeake lures for me and everyone else I happened to coax into using one was the Rattle Trap whenever fish were breaking.
After less than 10 minutes of trolling, Wright reeled in a 22 1/2 -inch rockfish that went into the fish box. A few minutes later my trolling rod bent under the weight of a fish and I began to crank the Penn reel. Halfway in, the line went limp and I knew the fish had slipped off.
We stayed in the area for about an hour, but it was so crowded that we pulled our lines and headed toward Oxford, where we spent some time fruitlessly casting white bucktails at the mouth of the Tred Avon River.
By the time we knocked off for the day, nary a complaint was heard, for we had enjoyed a simply beautiful, golden day on the Choptank.