Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rockfish Season

A dull mini trip report. I warned you.

April 16th, or there abouts depending on  the year, marks the practical start of fishing on the Chesapeake with the opening of rockfish season. Crowds of boats create a near-party atmosphere, and perhaps a little pressure not to strike out. Since the minimum keeper is 30 inches, you have to catch real fish!

Predictably, the weather in April can be nasty, and this year brought cold, near gale conditions, and rain. A few days later the sun came out, the temperature hit 85F, and the wind was predicted to be 15-20 knots with gusts to 25 knots. Good for a sailor, if a bit much for fishing.

Also good for tempting my daughter and a friend--it was Spring Break--to join me. Winter sailing tends to be a solo affair. A good opportunity for some early season sunburn. We blasted to the weather on a very close reach under reefed sails at 8-9 knots until suitably upwind, ready to turn troll homewards for rockfish. A nice warm, gusty wind. Some chop, but not bad. Delight. Jessica elected to sit on the tramp and get soaked with 55F water. Oh, to be young again... no, I think not.

The yo-yos are mounted center, port, and starboard, and 2 more on 7-foot outriggers (bamboo poles, one hidden from view behind the mainsheet). We tried a variety of lures. For us, large Rapella diving plugs work for rockfish, and yellow hose eels for blues. But I try other thing occasionally, since someone always swears by something different.

More on yo-yo fishing here: Yo Yo Fishing

After helping dropping the main and turning down wind--3-5 knots is optimum for tempting rockfish so only a bit of jib is needed--the kids retreated to the port cabin for dry clothes and warmth; yes, it was 80F, but not when wet. The wind died and the seas settled, I set 5 yo-yos with an assortment of lures, and sat back to, well, do nothing. To listen to the lines squeak and waves slap. Unfortunately, 15 minutes into that bliss one of the yo-yos tripped--fish on! After winding in 150 feet of 80-pound test line we were rewarded with a 20-inch throw back, but rules are rules, never mind that same fish is available in the market every day. But that fish is different, caught off-shore beyond the reach of regulations, and that makes... some... difference. Still, even a throw back is better than getting skunked.

The VHF warned of a nasty gust front approaching (40 knots), so we made for a beach closer to the harbor; if we  were caught there, anchored, there would be no troubles. Why ruin a lazy day with work. The kids walked the beach and hunted fossil sharks teeth, while I finish a beer and and old movie. They returned, we tried to fall asleep on the tramp, and then headed in.
Of course, we reached the dock along with the gust front. It took 3 passes at the slip to out smart a brisk beam wind, but dock rash was avoided through firm application of throttle.

And I spent a few minutes fooling with fitting my new solar panels (2 x 85 watts). I came up with an adjustable leg design I'm happy with; it compensates for the arch of the deck, provides for cooling, and since I'll epoxy them on, avoids holes. I'll post something when the protect is complete.

A nice day.

The foot is 1/2-inch pre-laminated FRP with a 1/4-inch x 1 1/2-inch stainless rod tapped and epoxied in. It will glue to the deck with thickened West System epoxy.


  1. What kind of line clips do you use for the yoyos?

  2. This information is imbedded in the Yo-Yo Fishing post. See below:

    (refers to Yo-Yo fishing Post)
    I use 2 types: flat line clips from Bass Pro Shops you can find at the blue highlighted Bass Pro link just before the "Trolling" paragraph, and the tarp clips you can find just below that at the blue highlighted "tarp clip" link. They are from Home Depot.

    Cover the teeth on the tarp clips with athletic tape and they work very nearly as well. I tried them only because I had some on the boat and wanted to add a few more lines. To my great surprise, there was little difference.