- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2007

SOLOMONS, Md.

As we drove through a dense rain that the locals sometimes describe as a frog strangler, my neighbor Bob Greer looked at me and asked, “Are you sure they’re going to go out in this kind of weather?”

“They” were charter fishing captains Greg Buckner and Sonney Forrest, who wanted to do two things: first, catch and release enough rockfish to let them know where the soon-to-spawn fish seemed to be traveling in the Chesapeake. Second, Forrest was on hand to show Buckner some of the operating intricacies of the immaculate charter boat “Fin Finder,” which he had just sold to Buckner.

They weren’t about to call it quits because a monsoon-like downpour covered the bay from Calvert County to the lowest parts of St. Mary’s County and across to the Eastern Shore. Besides, rockfish are the piscatorial version of ducks; they simply love rotten weather. Over time I’ve come to believe that hooking a striper is easier in bad weather than it is when the water is glass-smooth and balmy skies are overhead.

Forrest has been one of the legendary fishing captains on the bay for many years and considering Buckner’s impressive fish-finding skills, he’s about to become one. Rain and rough seas that heaved the Fin Finder to and fro weren’t good enough reasons to call a halt to their light-tackle trolling.

Both captains have enjoyed incredible success in years past, and they constantly want to experiment with new ways of making bay outings more exciting and enjoyable.

When Greer and I joined the two pros, we also met each of their boat mates, Andrew Turner and Steve Armsworthy. The two worked like galley slaves preparing 14 spinning rods count ‘em, 14 that would be used in place of the traditional heavier bay trolling reels. They attached Penn Slammer 460 reels that were loaded with 50-pound-test PowerPro braided line that was no thicker than 10-pound-test monofilament to strong spinning rods and stuck them into adjustable rod holders, five on the starboard side, five on the port side and the rest on the stern.

The lines were tied to white or chartreuse Parachute bucktails and dressed with large Sassy Shad bodies. Then the braided string was attached to the thick drag line of two planer boards (five rods a side) held in place with rubber bands, carefully spaced apart to keep them from tangling.

No sooner were the lures in the white-capped water, the planer boards riding comically at an angle and far away from the boat, when one of the starboard rods danced violently in its holder. A fish struck so hard it easily tore the rubber band from the planer board’s line and now the spinning outfit could be used to pump and reel in a potentially heavy fish. There would be no heavy sinker or anything else in the way.

“Fish on!” shouted Buckner as one of the mates snatched the rod from its receptacle. It took a while, providing far more sport than a heavy boat reel would allow even when the charter boat was slowed to a crawl. This first striped bass would have been a keeper during the trophy season that began yesterday, a season that runs until May 15 in which one 28- to 35-inch-long striper an angler (or one longer than 41 inches) will be legal to keep.

Greer was next and his catch-and-release rockfish easily would have been a keeper as well. So was the following striper and the next, and the one after that.

In spite of heaving waves and pelting rain, the rockfish didn’t care. Neither did we. The fishing was wonderfully productive and enjoyable even in heaving seas.

Interested? Call Buckner at 301/873-1327 or check out his Web site, www.misssusiecharters.com. If you’re wondering who Miss Susie is, it’s Buckner’s other charter vessel. For now, Forrest will run one of the boats, Buckner the other.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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