Sunday, November 25, 2001

The trouble with rockfish this time of year is that you’ll go out on the water and get your wish in a hurry. You’ll hook a bunch of them and in the end realize that you can’t keep but two. The fishing trip is over before it really begins, so to speak. All that is fine with many people who want to see a delectable striped bass on their dinner table and if that’s so, who better to spend a day with than our faithful standby, charter fishing captain Eddie Davis.
Davis, with his son Jeff providing exceptional service as the mate, left his home waters in Smith Creek, near Point Lookout, the other day and by the time we’d crossed the lower Potomac River to the Virginia side and heard several charter boat skippers complaining about a lack of action, Davis smiled from ear to ear. “You’d be surprised how many of these so-called p-r-o-fessionals don’t know the first thing about finding the fish,” he said. “They’ll watch another captain who’s into the stripers and then start crowding his space so they can cash in on the other man’s skill.” Davis’ exaggeration of the word pro served to make his point.
Within sight of the distant Smith Point lighthouse, Davis and his son began unraveling count them a dozen trolling rods that soon were connected to colorful umbrella rigs, each holding seven or eight Sassy Shad lures on wire arms. The ungainly looking setups actually are a brilliant way to fish if trolling is your bag.
Imagine running 10 trolling outfits, each of them tied to eight Sassy Shad bodies that do a fine job of imitating baitfish. Instead of the old-style Chesapeake Bay method of trolling one solitary bucktail per rod, you now have 80 bait lookalikes behind the boat, looking very much like a school of fish, instantly drawing the attention of roving bands of fat, hungry striped bass.
Now if the captain has an intricate knowledge of the location of various underwater ledges, humps, dips and rises in the landscape, he already knows that such undulating bottom structure is sure to invite smaller fish species who are in search of a meal and, bingo, the larger predator species will be there to vacuum up the little ones.
It’s as simple as that.
Davis, intimately familiar with every stretch of water-filled Chesapeake bottom in an area from, say, Tall Timbers in the Potomac on out past Point Lookout and over to the Middle Grounds and the Target Ship, or up the bay to Point No Point and back down toward Virginia’s Smith Point, began to read his depth locator and GPS unit, coordinating grid numbers and unerringly finding certain spots that have produced in the past.
“There they are,” he shouted over the din of the unceasing, mindless cackle of a marine radio. “Son, put ‘em over the side.”
In no time, Jeff Davis released the lines, some of them far back, followed by a few very close to the boat, with the rest somewhere in between. The mate checked the reel drags, adjusted some, leaving others be, then stuck the rods into special receptacles aboard the Edith Rose, a wonderfully comfortable wooden Chesapeake deadrise that can better handle any weather and rougher seas than most fiberglass boats.
The lines had barely straightened out behind the slow-moving charter vessel when the first fish struck. “Fish on,” yelled Jeff, and Dr. Peter Malnati ripped the rod from its holder and began to wrestle the rockfish back to the boat.
Alas, the fish broke free. “No problem,” said Doc, as we call him. “There’ll be more.”
Yeah, like in 15 seconds.
The next strike came to a starboard rod, and the outdoors editor of the Frederick (Md.) News-Post, James Gilford, worked a 10-pound rockfish back to the Edith Rose. Jeff Davis scooped it up with a net so big you could have used it on a floating Holstein cow.
Gilford, whose son, Jim, was along, pulled in the next one; then Doc got a fat striper that looked to go 12 or more pounds. I pulled one in on a boatside-mounted handline. The line burned my hand, but I wasn’t going to let Davis know it. He’d call me a sissy, something I surely didn’t want to hear.
To make a very short fishing story even shorter, our foursome boated the eight legal fish that we were allowed to keep in less time than the average person would need to spell Afghanistan.
Davis was all smiles. A bit of catch-and-release fish trolling with barbless hooks produced more action. We were a happy bunch.
Davis is a producer year in, year out. The kind of fishing that he provided for us will continue clear to the end of December in Virginia waters, in places he is very familiar with. Call him for a booking, 301/872-5871.

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