Jaime Avedon with a monster stonefish that was caught and released a few weeks ago. The opening day for the trophy season is a week away. Photo courtesy Jamie Avedon.
Be prepared for the opening day
By Dennis Doyle
We’re only a week away from the opening day of the Trophy Rockfish season. Are you ready for May 1st? Local sports stores will be prepared as well as possible as COVID restrictions are still affecting the bait and fishing tackle supply chain. This year there may not be enough for everyone.
A good idea might be to contact the stores before opening day if you have a need as the phones may be tied closer to May 1st or the agents may be too busy to answer. Make sure your fishing license is valid even before you open it. Fortunately, you can purchase or renew your license for 2021 online at https://compass.dnr.maryland.gov/dnrcompassportal.
Now check your fishing tackle. When the season starts, many unprepared anglers will seek help. Don’t be one of them.
Marinas and boat repair shops are already inundated with inquiries about wintering and repairing problems caused by the stress of winter storage. If you need supplies to maintain your engines and boats, you might be lucky if you are moving fast now. However, as the opening day draws closer, the shelves for parts, oil and accessories become increasingly sparse.
The most critical element of your tackle is your line. It’s trophy season and the minimum legal size Rockfish is 35 inches. This alone creates a lot of stress on the leash, especially when the season is old. Don’t wait for the opener to replace your line. Waiting in the lines for the first few days will be excruciating.
The next most important element is your fish hook. Steel fishing hooks do not rest in winter, if they have been used in the bay, they will rust. A rusted hook takes up to four times as much force as a fresh hook and that’s a guaranteed missing fish. Keep in mind that circle hooks are now required for strip bait fishing. So keep a good supply ready. And make sure they are the right size.
The hooks on trolling bait are particularly prone to rust and dullness and must either be replaced every year or thoroughly sanded for any signs of oxidation. If you look at them with magnifying optics, you will see why they have become dull and resistant to penetration. The older and bigger a stonefish gets, the harder its mouth becomes.
The last item on the list of critical points is the alignment of your rod. A cracked guide or a guide with a missing inner ring will shred your lines under pressure and they are often difficult to spot. If you have half a dozen rods, you may have over 70 line guides. A quick way to inspect them is to quickly run a piece of fine nylon cloth through each one – the fabric will get stuck if there is a mistake.
Tip tops can be exchanged easily and inexpensively in any competent tackle shop, but the rest of the rod guides are problematic. They need to be cut off, replaced, rewound, and reworked. That takes time and effort. Do that first and try not to get through, they will destroy your line quickly. Using braided line can be expensive. A new rod can be cheaper – if you can find one.
Fresh bait is an important consideration. If you plan to fish light fishing tackle for your trophy, the safest thing to do is to cut bait on the bottom. When chasing the big boys, the freshest bait and dude are well worth your while. They make the biggest difference on the water. If you’re using Menhaden, Alewife, or Bunker (all the same bait fish) avoid the frozen variety if possible, although it is acceptable as a mate and better than nothing for bait in the end.
When using blood worms, the jumbo size is almost an essential factor in seducing a trophy. Sports stores ran out of size quickly, but you can now order them in the mail from Maine, where they will all be harvested. Make it quick, deliveries from these are also threatened as COVID has drastically reduced the number of order pickers.
This is going to be a challenging season for many reasons, but the superior angler always remembers the U.S. Navy’s Five Ps: Proper preparation precludes pathetic performance. Believe it!
All kinds of fishing for Stonefish, including catch and release, has been closed in recent weeks, so there is no information on locations for the migrants. Blue catshowever, were caught in good size and numbers at Podickery Point. White perch They are reported to be sailing down rivers and streams heading for their summer grounds. The fishing season has started and all is well with the world, go out and get something.