Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Local Delicacy That Got Away -- Chartering A Boat To Chase Rockfish On The Chesapeake

PoppaChow and Chris Diehl on the Teaser
This was supposed to be a post about catching your own dinner, but those were the ones who got away.

Fishing trips were a tradition in my family in the 1960s and 1970s, and I restarted the idea last weekend with a trip on the Chesapeake for my father's birthday.  He and my brother crashed at our house in Howard County.  Then we drove to meet Chris Diehl on his boat the Teaser at 6:30 am in Dundalk.

Fall rockfish season -- as I learned on the Teaser -- is about younger fish.  We were looking for fish longer than 18 inches.  We could only take home two fish each.  It's a tough limit.

But it turned out to be tougher to catch a fish.  We tried a stop soon after we entered the bay.  We stopped near the bay bridge.  We ran across to the Eastern Shore and circled until I lost my sense of direction.  At mid-day, we hadn't had even a bite, and we were grateful for the excitement when the weights got caught on the bottom.  (My brother caught a burlap bag.  For a while, we thought that might be the highlight.)

I can't recommend the Teaser enough.  When you aren't catching fish, you do see how hard a captain works.  Chris trolled and trolled.  He switched bait.  He worked the phone.  Fish have been scarce since the big storms this summer, Chris said as we circled with another half dozen boats.  He and the other captains were calling each other with reports.  Only a fish or two above the bridge.  No fish below.

But we had what we had come to enjoy.  We were there to hang out and talk.  A dozen donuts in honor of my grandfather.  Sandwiches that Mrs. HowChow had outfitted with rye from Roots and deli meat from Harris Teeter.

It's a rush when the engines kick in, and the boat leaps up to run across the bay.  Our weather was beautiful, chilly at dawn and then warming as the sun got up.  We were happy, although Chris was professionally frustrated with the lack of hits.  He pushed late into the afternoon, a stop in the middle of the bay and then trolling off Sparrows Point.

That's where we caught Nemo.

A rockfish is an apex predator of the Chesapeake.  These are killing machines.  Nemo hit the bait like a torpedo.  I'm sure he was shocked to find my family staring at him when we pulled him out.  We were shocked to see him, that's for sure.  Maybe 12 inches.  Chris said he was 14 inches, but I think that was stretching the truth.  We got our photo and threw him back.

Rockfish is good eating when it is the legal size.  Last year, I discovered the wild ones at Laurel Meat Market.  We're thinking about going back next spring for the trophy fish season.  Chris fishes then from Chesapeake Beach  The mature rockfish run south from the spawning grounds back out to the ocean.

Would I like to catch legal fish next time?  Absolutely.  Could I have a better day than this weekend?  Probably not.  And as for Nemo . . . we'll find him again.

I can't recommend Chris and the Teaser enough.  The boat holds six people, which makes trips possible for smaller groups.  We had been looking for a "guy" even where the boys could hang out.  This was way better than a football game, and Chris would be a fine host for guys, gals or kid.  He has spent his life on the water and his career as a Baltimore firefighter, so you can't be in safer hands.

Chris doesn't use a mate with the smaller groups, so a group of four pays just the $380 rental fee.  Trophy season runs from April to May.  Then the regular season runs through the rest of the year.  Check out Chris' Web site.

No comments: