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Vol 43 | 2018 Winter Issue | Jan 1, 2018

2017 Year in Review “Hunting and Fishing the Chesapeake" The Galley Chum Lines ASMFC Approves Cobia Plan Fish Stories Maryland Boaters Can Now Renew Their Vessels Online Maryland Sets 2018 Summer Flounder Season, Size and Creel Limits NOAA Sets Blueline Tilefish Regulations Recreational Black Sea Bass Fishery Closes Effective Jan. 1, 2018 Recreational Fishing Participation Increases Nearly 20% Over Past 10 Years Ship To Shore Thinking about buying a boat lift? Here's all you need to know. Issue Photos
“Hunting and Fishing the Chesapeake"

Article by C.L. Marshall

Local outdoorsman and author, C.L. Marshall released his fourth book, “Hunting and Fishing the Chesapeake:
Unforgettable Tales of Wing and Water”. According to the author, “This book provides a brief glimpse into a life that many kindred spirits choose. It’s not necessarily where, but how one chooses to live that defines a man. Many on this little spit of land choose to take full advantage of the best the Chesapeake and Atlantic have to offer. For many, these activities profice more intrinsic value than most folks could ever imagine. The value doesn’t come in the form of a paycheck, it’s derived from the sunrises and sunsets. It comes from the warm southerly breezes as fresh-caught dinner cooks on the open fire. It’s about the sound of the surf and the anticipation of the sun’s first peek over the distant horizon. It’s about a successful teaser bite, a good retrieve and the smile a young hunter displays as their first goose is claimed. It’s about the people we choose to share these moments with. At the root of all this is the land and the water. It’s our playground. Cherish it.”

Editor’s note: For anyone who enjoys the outdoors on Delmarva, this book is a must read. With a combination of hunting and fishing stories, I found myself not wanting to put it down, enjoying one chapter after another, feeling like I was right there with the author as he spun his tales. It is a wonderful read. especially for those familiar with the areas of Delmarva highlighted throughout the short stories. What follows is one chapter in C.L’s latest book.

Small Craft Warnings

The erect dorsal of the six-hundred-pound blue marlin accelerated quickly as it zeroed in on the horse ballyhoo swimming very lifelike behind a large black-and-purple Islander. I stood in amazement at the force with which this very aggressive beast attacked her dinner. There was no need for a feathered drop back of the bait. She hammered the bait from the port side, accelerating as she swatted it with her bill and engulfing it quickly, leaving a shower of ocean water and a hole the size of a VW in her wake. I was glad to be at the helm.

The day dawned as expected. For once, all the prognosticators were on the same page, mentioning light winds from the south. They all also used the word “variable,” which to us was the signal to pull the trigger on a tuna trip. They’d been catching a few at 26 Mile Hill out of Wachapreague. The thirty-fathom lumps just inside the Washington Canyon held many more. A combination of an excellent forecast, favorable sea conditions and several other boats heading to the same area made me and my fishing partner Bill Hall anxious to put his nineteen-foot Swan Point, dubbed “Fishmaker,” to the test. We intended to use all of its sixty-five-gallon fuel capacity.

To this point, the Swan Point had been an excellent fishing platform. We’d made several trips out of Chincoteague and Wachapreague for sea bass and tautog. It had performed admirably in the shallows off Elbow Tump for speckled trout and seemed to attract red drum down at Parker’s Island. We had made several trips down to Cape Charles, catching limits of black drum on each trip. A fifty-two-inch cobia was found minding his own business swimming under a sea turtle. He was tricked into eating a yellow bucktail and subsequently released after putting up one hell of a fight on light spinning tackle. At this early point in the year, we had collected enough Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament plaques to use as placemats for a dinner service for eight. Things were going well as we moved into late June.

We had been looking for a weather window for some time to put some tuna blood on her floor. There was a good chance that we’d be able to find some bluefins at the Parking Lot in mid-July. The combination of weather, good numbers of mahi and the occasional yellowfin tuna at the “hills” would lure us and a few others to traverse the thirty or so miles to a sea mount off the Wachapreague, Virginia coast. Our destination would be 26 Mile Hill.

The smallish boat had been transformed into an offshore fishing machine over the course of three hours the prior afternoon. She was loaded with four Penn International 30 wides and a pair of 50s. Onboard were a couple gaffs, the insulated fish bag and a small cooler laden with brined baits affixed to Sea Witches in a rainbow of colors. Six larger, or horse, ballyhoos were fed onto larger lures, and three were rigged naked. They would be deployed on the larger 50 Internationals in the event that a larger pelagic predator would make an appearance in our spread. Though we would certainly be the smallest boat in the fleet, we wouldn’t be undergunned. We also didn’t suffer from a lack of confidence.
On the ride to the little city by the sea, there was a noticable calm in the air. We spoke very little, each sipping on rather tasty coffee from the Shore Stop. The boat was launched with little issue and was idling nicely as I returned from parking the truck. I hopped aboard and we began the seven-mile trek toward the Wachapreague Inlet. We fell in behind Captain Nat Adkinson on the Foxy Lady. Nat’s boat wasn’t the fastest in the fleet, and he used that to his advantage. Often he left earlier than his counterparts, and his lack of speed only enchanced his skill in fishing the inshore waters. He knew where every bump, hill, engine block, snag and upwelling was located that might hold a fish. He could catch them as well.

We made thirteen knots following him through the inlet and past the “C” bouy. Bill bumped her up to twenty-three knots on the flat surface of the ocean. Our ETA to the northern end of 26 Mile Hill would put us there right at sunrise. The ride there was uneventful. As we slowed to trolling speed two miles short of our waypoint, the outriggers were deployed and baits began to hit the water. The flat lines were first to go over. Clipping the second line to the transom clip, we took a second to admire how nicely they were swimming. Long riggers were sent out next to a distance of about one hundred yards behind the boat. Short riggers, with the larger baits on the 50s, split the distance between the flats and longs. We worked independently and in unison. If there was going to be an early-morning bite, we were going to be in on it.

Bill took the helm, and I took to the tower to survey the spread. Well, actually, it wasn’t a tower. In actuality, I stood atop the cooler seat in front of the center console. From that vantage point I saw the first flash of neon green pick off the starboard long bait. The gaffer dolphin jumped almost immediately as line began to peel off the reel, the drag of the Penn making that special sound that all fishermen treasure. As I brought the fish boatside, Bill leadered and gaffed the fish, cleanly swinging it into the open 128-quart cooler in one continous motion. The skunk was out of the boat. We bobbed and weaved through the increasing number of boats for the next hour before we had our next customer.

This bite was unseen. There would be no jumping and no flashing in the baits, just an old-school street fight. It was down and dirty. There was little doubt that this was a tuna. I took the wheel as Bill settled into the circular battle that marked the near end of the fight, or so we thought. This fish had heart. After nearly thirty minutes, I sunk the steel through his head. Our first bluefin of the season joined the dolphin in the cooler.

While we’d had a rather busy morning thus far, we couldn’t help but overhear the chatter from the boats off on the thirty-fathom line. A few billfish had been sighted, and stories of dolphins and tunas being boated were coming across channel 69 with increasing regularity. We both were thinking about it, but neither voiced it until we got that call from Captain Mike Parker on The Lucky Dawg. Parker commented to Bill, “If there was ever a day to catch a billfish on a small boat, today is the day.” With a small bit of coercion, we pulled the lines in and headed offshore. We pulled the throttles back at the thirty-fathom line and pointed her bow to the north toward the bumps just inside the Washington.

There was a definite color difference between the 26 Mile Hill and our current location. No longer was it the off color green, but rather a deep, clean blue. The water temperature difference was six degrees. Large sportfishermen from Virginia Beach and Ocean City trolled in the same area. The Lord only knows what they thought when they saw us out there in the deep. Quickly, we got our lines in the water. After a little adjustment, we were right where we wanted to be. We began to wonder about the sanity of our decision after the first hour of trolling left our baits undisturbed. The second hour passed with just one more small peanut dolphin to show for our efforts.

Still pushing northward, I made for the outside edge of the bump. Bill went forward to pull a pair of cold Buds and our subs out of the cooler. Driving along with my back to the west, we nibbled on our food and savored the cold beer. In the calm water, the wake pushing ahead of the fish was very obvious. In disbelief I saw this massive blue-and-gold missle building speed toward the port shortrigger. I couldn’t speak in full sentences. Never had I seen such an animal move with such speed and precision. The words that came out were, “Bill…Bill…Billfish!!!!”

The fish hit with aggression, the rod doubled and line sped off the reel with a pace that I had not experienced. Bill pulled the rod from the rod holder, and I supplied him with a fighting belt. Quickly, I started to clear the lines, but that plan had to be aborted as the fish greyhounded away from the boat in a wide clockwise arc. Luckily, we had him on the 50. Bill just held on as the line peeled off the reel. My first instinct was to chase the fish, but I chose wisely and began to chase the line. Half a spool was gone and it was departing quickly. Bill moved to the front of the boat as we attempted to get line back on the reel.

The radio was ablaze with chatter about the “little boat.” The entire fishing community sent suggestions and well wishes in our endeavor. At the forty-five-minute mark, we’d gained much of our line back, only to have it stripped off again. This ordeal replayed over and over again. I sent out a request for harness for Bill. The belt had broken, and he was nearing the hour mark in this battle. Without a harness we had little hope of successfully landing this fish. Nick Katrobus, on his Maine-style boat Tuna Fortuna, didn’t hear the call, but he did inquire about the “little boat” dead in the water and called to render assistance. I quickly answered on the radio as the fish made another long run to the starboard, launching its heft airborne in full view of the Katrobus crew. Nick quickly backed to our port side, tossed us his harness, asked if we needed anything else, then eased off to watch the show. Momentarily leaving the helm, I retrieved the harness and quickly strapped it to Bill and the rod. He took a little break and then began to work on the fish.

Just after the two-hour mark, the fish rose to the surface and seemed to just linger there. Only twenty yards away, I needed to cover half that distance to get our hands on the leader. Touching the leader signaled a release, but I wanted to get our hands on this beast. In the gentle rolling swells of the ocean, I thrust the engine in reverse and quickly cut our distance in half, as Bill performed admirably on the reel.

With the boat at idle, I pulled the fish toward me and grabbed the bill. The old girl was played out. So was Bill. After a few quick pictures, forward gear was engaged and we “swam” the thirteen-foot fish beside the boat until she signaled her time to go with an angry thrash of her great bill. With that she slowly departed our company and returned to the deep. Crossing paths undoubtedly left an intense memory with all involved.

“Hunting and Fishing the Chesapeake: Unforgettable Tales of Wing and Water” and C.L.’s other books can be purchased at several local bookstores and also at www.clmarshallpublishing.com.

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