Hayden Cook, Fisheries Intern
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Posted on July 10, 2012 | Permalink
Diamond Jim Tagging
Location: Chesapeake Bay
On June 28th I went out with a team of Anglers and DNR biologist on a charter boat to tag striped bass for the Diamond Jim component of the Maryland Fishing Challenge, DNR's annual fishing contest. This fishing contest is being used as a marketing tool to help bring people into the sport of fishing. Striped bass are caught, then tagged and released each month during the summer. After all the striped bass are released, one tag is randomly selected to be the Diamond Jim - worth $20,000 dollars to whomever catches it between July 1st and Midnight July 31st. The rest of the tagged fish are worth up to $500 dollars each if caught before September 3rd. What's great about this tournament is it goes on all summer and anyone, young or old can be a part of it.
To start my day off I had to meet Biologist Eric Durell at 5 am to arrive at the fishing port around 6 am, also Sarah Burton and Rachel Bowers, two other DNR interns met us at the port. Our Charterboat Captain Dale chose to fish live line, instead of trolling. He said that where we were fishing his wife and him caught 100 stripers live lining the day before. Live lining is a much more fun and a hands on way of fishing for striped bass. To do this you cast your line out with a live spot on the hook, then when you feel a bite you have to wait and place the hook in the fish's mouth by using a jigging action with your fishing pole. When you troll, all you do is set out a bunch of lines and wait until you see a fish take the bait, which can get boring after a while.
First we had to catch spot to use as our live bait. Catching spot was easy, all you need are blood worms, then you let the line hit the bottom and wait for a bite. The spot ranged from around three to five inches in size. The only problem with catching these spot, were the croakers. I felt like the croakers out numbered the spot 2:1, but fisherman aren't allowed to use croakers for bait. It was taking too long to catch spot, so our Captain Dale called his buddy up who gave us fifty or so spot.
Once all the spot were caught and put in our live box, Captain Dale drove us a half hour to forty five minutes out to one of his secret spots. I can't tell you where it is, but the fishing was incredible.
To bait the hook with spot, the hook is inserted through the back of the fish by his top or dorsal fin. This didn't kill the spot and allowed it to act naturally in the water. The more the spot moved the better the striped bass were attracted to it, so I usually looked for the smaller two or three inch ones which were very lively. If the spot died on the hook, usually no striper would take it.
On my first cast, I caught a fish almost instantly. Captain Dale chose a great spot, everyone on the boat was catching fish left and right for a good couple hours. We were able to keep the fish that got hooked too deep. One person with us caught a nice bluefish. Overall around sixty fish were caught and out of those thirty six were tagged and released, the rest were either too small or we kept them for dinner.
Captain Dale also took us to one of his other secret spots to fish for yellow perch, a shiny yellow fish which usually only gets up to about ten inches. Even though perch are small, they tasted delicious when I went home and grilled some fillets.
In my opinion this was the best field day I have had while being an intern for the DNR for the past three weeks. I learned a lot about Diamond Jim and the Maryland Fishing Challenge, and advise all anglers to go out and try to catch as many striped bass as possible, not just for the money but for the experience. They provide a good little fight, and keep you occupied for a great day on the Chesapeake Bay, plus they taste delicious. Remember this month the Diamond Jim is worth $20,000 dollars and if not caught - next month it will be worth $25,000 dollars so don't stop fishing for those striped bass.