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A Ray of Sunshine on the 4th - Finally Landed a Cownose ray


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I have been determined to catch a cownose ray. Last year Sue fought one and it got unhooked as we were pulling it up onto the rocks for a photo. I lost one last year and tried to horse it up onto the land and broke it off. Two weekends ago, Livie and I were just going on a close fishing trip. We caught a few spot and croakers using bloodworms. We were gifted a half of a peeler blue crab (one that was caught just before it molts). We decided to go out to a spot on Tilghman Island that is right on the Chesapeake bay. I was hoping for a striper or possiblly a cownose ray. I had a rod rigged with an old high/low rig that had seen a lot of action on a recent sea bass trip. I put on a 6/0 circle hook on the high dropper loop to be in compliance with the striper regs and added the crab. I cast out that line, loosened the drag in case we got a bite so it could run a bit, then fished with my other rod to catch more spot, croakers, etc. 15 mins go by and there is something on the crab bait. I tightend the drag and pulled tight to set the hook and the fish began to rapidly strip drag. After that initial run, the fish swam in an arc from my right to left. When it hit the end of the arc it would pull drag and then turn back the other way. As it was swimming in that arc, I could gain ground before it would strip more line at the end of the arc. This fish repeatedly kept going back and forth as I made up ground. I fought that fish for over ten mins before that old dropper loop parted and it was off. 

I had to wait until Thurs of last week to have a similar tide after work. I picked up four peeler crabs and headed back to the same spot on the rocks. We switched out the reel with one of our bait runner reels so that we didn't need to loosen and then tighten the drag when a fish was on. I tied a single hook rig with a 6/0 circle hook about 18 to 24 inches above the sinker. We also rigged up another MH 8ft rod with a Okuma 6000 bait runner reel and the same bait rig. The water was like glass. There were a few diving duck and cormorants out on the bay. We even had a cownose ray swim between our baits and the shore. It glided by with its two fin tips up above the water looking like two shark fins. it didn't take long and line was pulling off the reel. I engaged the reel and came tight on the fish and it took off making the drag scream. 

Cownose - again close but no Photo - 27Jun24.jpg

This fish fought like the last one by swiming in those same arcs. I fought this fish for at least 15 mins gaining and losing ground. Livie went down to the water's edge and I got the fish closer and closer to her. On the third pass right next to the rocks, the fish was about a foot from the net. I tried horsing it into the net and the knot popped and the fish was gone😒.

When we pulled Livie's rod out to fight my fish, she was out of bait. We got her rigged up again and it wasn't more than 10 mins that she got hooked up.

Livie Cownose ON! - Tilghman Island 27Jun24.jpg

She fought that fish like a champ and soon it was up to dad the net man to land the fish. Let me say this, alge covered rocks when wet are slick as snot. I avoided the worse rocks, but slipped and fell into the water as I extended and got the net on the fish. I was able to wedge myself between two rocks and was literally pulling the fish with my other hand into the net while Livie was pulling the fish with rod into the net. We got it stuffed in the net just as the line broke. My lucky fishing hat came off when I first fell into the water and was lost 😌. There may have been a handful of trips with Livie throughout her whole life that I did not wear that hat. She was heartbroken. Through all of this she had just landed the largest fish that she has ever caught so far.

Livie Cownose 3 - Tilghman Island - 27Jun24.jpg

Livie Cownose 1 - Tilghman Island - 27Jun24.jpg

With work and tides, I didn't get my chance for redemption until yesterday, the Fourth of July. We only fished the one rod that Livie caught hers. We felt that the longer rod and bigger reel made it easier to fight these rays. We had two and a half peeler crabs left from the last trip. I had lots of bait stealers for 90 mins and split the last crab about an hour before we had to get Livie back to meet one of her friends. That last crab  did the job. I was hooked up and fought another cownose ray. A crowd gathered wondering what we had on the line. Using our bigger net, Livie and I got that fish into the net and I was overwhlemed with relief.

Livie w Cownose Ray - Tilghman - 04Jul24.jpg

Cownose Ray 1 - Tilghman - 04Jul24.jpg

These are strong fish and fun for those of us that weren't hoping for a 40+" striper only to be disappointed with a ray. Unless we have a guest that wants to fish for them, I don't know if we will intentionally go after them again at this location. Maybe we can find them in a spot were we could land them on the beach😉

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1 hour ago, Quillback said:

That's pretty neat, I bet those things fight like crazy.  

What is the price for blue crabs these days as far as buying them to take home to eat?

Jeff they are really strong fighters and a blast to catch. Their whole body shape fights against you as well as their strength. Landing one especially on the jetty rocks is nerve wracking.

I paid $3/crab for these peelers. We haven't eaten any crabs this year and I can't answer the current price of meal crabs. We feel that the crabs later in the summer to mid fall are the best eaters. They have more meat and are sweeter. Early summer there is a big number of molting crabs and those that do molt need a little time to build muscle to fill in the suit😄. Though we may try this weekend to get a few for dinner 😉.

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What a catch.    Sorry to hear about the lucky hat.   Congrats to you both for persevering and making it happen. Even if I was wanting a 40" striper, I would be just happy as I could be with a ray.   Those saltwater fish fight different.   

Money is just ink and paper, worthless until it switches hands, and worthless again until the next transaction. (me)

I am the master of my unspoken words, and the slave to those that should have remained unsaid. (unknown)

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18 minutes ago, Daryk Campbell Sr said:

Even if I was wanting a 40" striper, I would be just happy as I could be with a ray.   Those saltwater fish fight different.   

We'd be happy to take you out for a try if you get out this way😉

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