- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2001

BENEDICT, Md. October is my favorite month of the year. It is a time when days and nights are cool enough to make a body yearn to be on the water or in the woods, a time when you find yourself praying that the days will never end because the temperature is comfortable and the humidity low.
It was such an October day when Bob Rice, founder and chairman of the Allen’s Fresh Yellow Perch Marching Society and Chowder Club, waited for me to launch a boat and head into the Patuxent River downstream of Benedict to look for early-morning stripers, bluefish and whatever else could be coaxed into striking a smartly popped surface lure.
Folks, we’re not talking about just a morning fishing trip. No, Bob and I went out into the river when it was so dark that barely visible blobs of blackness atop the water, which we believed to be crab pots, turned out to be sleeping ducks that were unceremoniously rousted from a nap. At least, we believed them to be ducks. They were either ducks or the river’s crab pot markers have learned how to fly.
But I don’t worry when Rice is in the boat. He knows this beautiful waterway like the contents of his tackle box. He knows where every dip, rise, sandbar, rock pile and extended underwater land point is, which is important lest you run aground or into something near shore. So with bow and stern lights brightly shining, our boat traveled less than a mile before Rice pointed to a spit of land poking into the river, a series of rocks plainly visible in the bit of brightness provided by a waning moon.
In the dark, we tied on surface poppers. My preference this morning ran to a new blue/chartreuse Strike King lure that is 21/2 inches long and weighs 3/8 of an ounce. The dish-faced Spit-N-King plopped down within a foot of a shoreline boulder and, whoosh, a rockfish had it in its mouth.
“Way to go, boy,” said Rice, who is maybe a year or two older than I am. (I consider it a treat when my fishing pals call me boy.)
The next cast required a few quick rod twitches and, kerplow. Another striper had the cone-shaped popper which has a tail section that hangs so enticingly low in the water that when it is twitched and pulled along it jumps and darts and makes every move that a crippled baitfish does when it tries to get away from a hungry predator.
Although some red sky could be seen far across on the Eastern Shore side of the distant Chesapeake, the sun had not yet risen enough to be visible.
Rice now had a strike, lost the fish, only to see another (or was it the same one?) striper inhale his surface lure. Yes, these fish were small specimens, not even close to measuring the legally required 18 inches if we wanted to take one home for dinner, but we didn’t care. Whatever size, these fish were in a feeding mood, and our plastic “baits” looked good enough to eat.
Our October fishing fun, however, did not yet enter warp speed until we crossed the river to get to Sheridan Point where the water drops from three to 43 feet. It was there that we suddenly noticed small pods of minnows leap from the water near the point’s outer shoreline. Something obviously bigger was after them.
Katy, bar the door!
In rapid order, Rice and I hooked and released the doggonest assortment of young rockfish, blues, some white perch, and even several garfish. The action was so incredibly hectic and nonstop that the two of us looked at one another, shook our heads and laughed like little children. “Can you believe this?” asked Rice.
We must have caught and released 30 or more bluefish alone, never mind all the stripers.
“The fellow who runs the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park said that every point in the Patuxent River had fish on them. Guess he wasn’t lying,” I said.
Rice, always calmer and more measured than I, nodded and answered, “Yeah, looks like he was right. So what do you say we stop a while, have a sandwich and a cool drink, then continue when we’ve rested.”
Astonishingly, even with a bright sun and a slowly warming day that now ran toward 11 o’clock, the fish particularly the snapper blues never left. We continued to receive hit after hit. When the topwaters didn’t work, a lipless half-ounce Diamond Shad lure that rattles and wobbles like a crazy baitfish would turn the trick.
Yes, there’s nothing like an October morning to get a body’s batteries charged.

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