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Gone fishin' and what fishin' it is!


Between the striped bass (rockfish) fishing being enjoyed on the Chesapeake Bay, the tidal and freshwater bassin' on the Potomac River and local reservoirs, and the super blue water angling awaiting vacationers in Ocean City, I have to proclaim that Maryland fishing is great this spring.

I followed up a truly memorable tidal Potomac River bass trip with Reel Bass Adventures pro Andy Andrzejewski last week with an equally mind-boggling angling outing with Captain Gordon Haegerich on Monday.

"I was out this morning and boated more than 30 rockfish in less than two hours," Haegerich said last Sunday. "Let's grab a couple of friends and go out tomorrow morning."

Local anglers David Navarre and Dick Broden joined me for one of Haegerich's Busman's Holidays. We left Kentmoor Marina at 5:30 in the morning and 60 minutes later the Casey J's cooler held an 18-pound, 34-inch striped bass boated by Broden, Navarre's 31-incher and my own 14-pound, 29 1/2 -inch rockfish.

We certainly hadn't had enough fun after two 20-inch throwbacks and the three keepers, so out came the pliers to mash down hookbarbs, and we kept on fishing until lunchtime. When the whistle blew, we had caught and released 38 rock, of which 17 were in excess of the 26-inch minimum-size limit that went into effect June 1.

Out of Kentmoor Marina, located on Kent Island, Haegerich angled the Casey J south to just off the mouth of Eastern Bay and dropped anchor over a spot known as "The Hill." This is a hump in the Chesapeake's bottom rising from around 60 feet to 30 feet below the surface.

"I like to anchor right on the top edge and let a chumline drift out into the deeper water," Gordon said.

Next to casting to breaking fish, I like chumming for sporty striped bass and bluefish with medium to light spinning tackle best of all. Now is the time to adopt this method rather than trolling, which is so effective on big blues and stripers in May. Trolling puts your lure down deep, but now that the water temperature is in the 70s, the fish are much closer to the surface.

In fact, none of the fish we hooked Monday morning were more than 6 feet under the surface, which explains why we did so much better than all of the other boats in our area. Most of those people, the four of us agreed, were fishing too deep.

"Don't use any weight," Gordon instructed us, "but just toss out your bait and let it drift naturally down the chumline."

As the bait drifted to a rockfish, the fish usually would tap it once or twice then grab it and the fight was on.

Stripers are great fighting fish and when you put one on the end of a limber spinning rod loaded with 10- to 15-pound test line, you are in for a real test of skill and equipment.

This season is going to continue to be one that you just can't miss. If you have access to a boat, put it in at Sandy Point Park and make the 15- to 30-minute run down to the Eastern Bay area. Many local anglers, though, are like me -- boatless and dependent upon charter captains. I fish with Haegerich (410-255-5792) quite a bit and consider him one of the best.

Local news and notes

Nineteen turkeys were taken during Carroll County's first modern-era spring turkey season. Statewide, 2,440 birds established a state record over the previous record of 1,744 taken in 1994. The top county was Garrett with 722 turkeys bagged.

* Sign up now for the Aug. 1-5 archery class scheduled at the Mayberry Archers Club in Mayberry. Call (410) 876-3401 for information.

* A few walleye are being taken on nightcrawlers and live shiners in shallow water at Liberty. Nice smallmouth catches are being made in deeper water and spinnerbaits are the favored lures.

At Piney Run the yellow perch fishing has been excellent. At Prettyboy the bass are taking white spinnerbaits in deep water, but the really big news is the super white perch action.

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