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Despite crisis, spring fishing has kicked off on the Chesapeake Bay

Annapolis resident Brennan Shute, home from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, took a break from his online classes during the coronavirus pandemic to pose for a quick photo with this 46-inch rockfish before it was carefully released. He caught it trolling off Thomas Point with his father, Capt. Greg Shute. The catch-and-release striper season runs through the end of March. No striper fishing is allowed in April.
Annapolis resident Brennan Shute, home from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, took a break from his online classes during the coronavirus pandemic to pose for a quick photo with this 46-inch rockfish before it was carefully released. He caught it trolling off Thomas Point with his father, Capt. Greg Shute. The catch-and-release striper season runs through the end of March. No striper fishing is allowed in April. (Capt. Gred Shute)

If you’ve ever I’ve lived in an old house, the slightest creak in the pipes or knock in the wall gets your attention, especially when you first move in.

In a perverse way, that’s how I feel sometimes during the early stages of this unprecedented era. Not to make light of the global crisis but after every sneeze, wheeze or cough I find myself asking: Is this it!? Growing old ain’t for sissies, especially now.

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I quickly catch myself and recognize, a bit sheepishly, that compared to others I’ve been very fortunate. Like most, I’m hunkering down and self-isolating as much as possible with only a very occasional foray to wet a line.

This past week, in anticipation of an upcoming shad fishing expedition, I entered my gear shed looking for my 5-weight fly fishing outfit. I found that fly rod fairly quickly, yet didn’t exit the building until almost three hours later.

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Most of that time was spent culling useful from useless gear — a process that was equal parts curiosity, discovery and befuddlement. A surfeit of orphaned parts caused the latter reaction, followed by a drawn-out series of hemming and hawing over the object’s fate.

“I may need this someday,” I wondered in a stupor, not having a clue as to its purpose. I also found battery-powered boot warmers that I have no recollection of purchasing. A mouse had gnawed out a chunk of foam where the Sergeant Hulka toe was supposed to go, the battery connections completely corroded, and yet still I pondered whether to toss or keep.

A head count of decoys, reels, and rods caused my circuits to temporarily overload. There were even a few hangers-on that date back to the Clinton administration.

Once extricated from this twilight zone, I planned a few trips in coming weeks.

From panfish and catfish to stripers and shad, spring fishing has kicked off nicely in the fresh and salty waters of our little state. While we should all respect Maryland’s current State of Emergency and make the necessary adjustments to protect our family, friends and community, it doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t go fishing. Just do it safely.

Trolling for rockfish in recent weeks has been outstanding in local waters. One of the scores of local anglers who got in on the action was Annapolis resident Brennan Shute, home from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Taking a break from his online classes, Shute landed and quickly released a 46-inch rockfish trolling off Thomas Point with his father, Capt. Greg Shute.

You still have through March to get in on the catch-and-release rockfish action. April is closed; no striper fishing of any kind is allowed until May 1.

The silvery striped migrants are definitely running up the Chesapeake, staging until water temperatures hit that magic window (generally considered from 58 Fahrenheit to low 64F) that kicks off the first wave of the spawn. As of Friday, water temps off Thomas Point were a tick above 50F.

Fishing has been good on the freshwater side of things, too. Hickory shad have shown up in the Gunpowder, upper Potomac and other spawning tributaries. A friend shared the action hasn’t caught fire yet, although he tried to interrogate the few he did catch to reveal the whereabouts of their cousins to no avail.

White perch are thick in the Patuxent, Tuckahoe and upper Choptank. Hooking up is almost automatic if using grass shrimp on a jig.

Maryland’s traditional start of trout season was Saturday, and after a brief hiatus in accordance with Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order to limit spread of COVID-19, the DNR will resume limited trout stocking throughout Maryland, adhering to strict safety protocols. The action is required to create capacity and alleviate overcrowding at state fish hatcheries, according to a recent DNR statement. The benefit to recreational anglers is obvious.

Other DNR field activities have been suspended, understandably. At present, it’s unclear if fishery biologists will be able to conduct their annual spawning stock surveys in the upper Bay and Potomac. Like young-of-the-year surveys conducted later in the summer, these collect data very useful to fishery managers.

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Outdoors Calendar

(Note: Due to restrictions in place to help combat the coronavirus, many public meetings have been cancelled, postponed or rescheduled. Check event website for updates).

April 11 (also April 12 in certain counties): Junior Turkey Hunting Days are for hunters age 16 or younger only. Only bearded turkeys may be harvested in the Junior Turkey Hunting Days and Spring Season.

April 17-19: Bay Bridge Boat Show. Details at annapolisboatshows.com. Note: Organizers posted online that they have “placed a temporary hold on both the Bay Bridge Boat Show (April 17-19) and Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show (April 24-26). “It is our hope that measures put in place today will help to resolve this crisis quickly and the shows will be reinstated.” A final decision will be announced no later than April 2.

April 18–May 23: Spring Turkey Season. Bearded turkeys only, one bird per day. Shooting hours April 18-May 9 are one-half hour before sunrise to noon. Shooting hours for May 10-May 23 are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

May 1-15: Maryland’s Trophy Rockfish Season. Limits one rockfish per person at a 35-inch minimum. These rules will be in effect until May 16.

May 2: 18th Annual Boatyard Bar & Grill Opening Day “Catch & Release” Rockfish Tournament. Registration open.

June 1-Sept. 30: Recreational Cobia Season. Recreational anglers may keep one (1) cobia per person per day; or up to three (3) cobia per vessel per day if there are three or more individuals on the boat. Minimum size for cobia is 40 inches, total length.

June 6: 17th Annual Kent Narrows Fly & Light Tackle Tournament, sponsored by CCA MD Kent Narrows chapter.

Email photos, calendar listings, and outdoors news to Chris Dollar at: cdollar@cdollaroutdoors.com.

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