The opening of trophy striped bass season on the Chesapeake Bay is a big deal here in Maryland. Just like the beginning of the salmon run in Alaska, the Gulf Coast’s red snapper opening, and the start of fluke along the Jersey coast, it represents the first big fishing bang of the year.
Last month we were either suffering through wet snow and heavy wind to catch half-pound perch, or we were catching nothing at all. Not long before that you had to drill a hole through the ice to get a shot at so much as a bluegill. But this month, we’re fighting 20 to 50 pound fish, under a balmy sunny sky. Ahhhhhhh.
The spring trophy season here is a game of trolling. You set out a huge spread of lines—running two dozen rods is not uncommon—and run planer boards off each side of the boat to take your offerings 100’ to 150’ away. Since each line has a pair of hook-baits you’ll be dragging around 48 separate lures through the water. Sooner or later, one should happen to intersect with a striped bass. We call it “collision-fishing,” for the obvious reason.
Spring trophy season trolling is, IMHO, a miserable experience. The rods and reels used for trolling are often so heavy you can barely tell if you’re hooked up to a fish or a tire. Tens of thousands of anglers board thousands of boats at the same time, head for the same hotspots, set out their lines and planer boards, then attempt to troll through and around each other. Lines get tangled, planer boards get cut off, and tempers flare. Both voices and middle fingers get raised. It causes everything that we go fishing to get away from: stress, anger, and frustration. Which is why I refuse to do it.
Instead, when trophy stripers come in, a few of us drop anchor in areas the trollers don’t frequent very often. We set out a few baits rigged on light tackle, we sit back, and we wait. We do not usually catch as many fish as an experienced troller, but we do catch a few, and on much lighter and more challenging gear.
As we sat at anchor off Love Point on the opening day last weekend and watched trolling chaos in the distance, it reminded me of why we anglers do what we do. The two stripers we caught were enough to put big, fat smiles on all of our faces, and I was treated to an exceptionally relaxing day with my father and brothers. Never once was a voice raised, and stress was the farthest thing from my mind. A re-charging of human batteries took place.
Wherever you fish, I hope the beginning of your 2014 season is equally pleasant.