Fishing Forecast: Patient anglers rewarded with quality stripers
Sometimes it’s more of “where” and “when” than “how,” and that certainly seems to be the case this week as fishermen who gutted out a slow bite until the fish turned on were rewarded with quality stripers to 35 inches. Anglers who headed to the dock early, well, they missed out. Sadly, I was in that latter bunch on Saturday.
Overall, local fishing has been good this week when conditions are fishable. The outgoing tide was best for those fishermen I spoke with and white or some variation of it was the best color, in lure sizes that mimic the 4- to 8-inch bunker that the larger stripers are munching on. Action has been good both above the Chesapeake Bay bridges and down toward Deale and several spots in between. From the Gas Plant south to the Middle Grounds, some fishermen are landing rockfish limits, with decent numbers of rockfish over 28 inches. This week I heard of a better grade of rockfish on the western shore, and the first wave of sea-run rock have crossed into Maryland from Virginia. Stripers are busting bait off the New Jersey and striper fishermen are burning them up.
A quick, friendly reminder to all fishermen: Try and avoid running your boats through breaking fish. Sometimes it’s better to watch a moment and see how the stripers are pushing the bait, and then set up your drift. Also, even if they move out of casting or jigging range, sometimes you don’t have to move at all since they’ll come back in a few minutes.
Some anglers are trolling, others are jigging and those who live bait. In addition to jigging both stick and paddle-tailed soft plastics — BKDs, Bust Em Baits, Z-Mans and Hogy’s all got a mention — or trolling spoons or bucktails and parachutes, either in tandem or on Billy Bars, those who still have live bait down or are chunking with fresh bunker over live bottom are catching, too. Best of luck to those anglers fishing this Saturday’s “Rocksgiving” Fishing Tournament, held out of Chesapeake Harbor Marina in Annapolis.
And finally, this Sunday we’ll be treated to the biggest “super moon” in 68 years, so I’ll be curious to see what if any effect that has on the catching. The tide swings ought to be interesting, at least. Enough celestial musing — let’s get down to fishing business.
From Baltimore Light to Bodkin Creek, and across from Rock Hall to Love Point, Bud at Fishbones calls the rockfishing above the twin spans “top notch.” Look for the bunker schools, from off Gibson Island to inside Patapsco on the western side of the bay or from Love Point to Rock Hall on the Eastern Shore. Bud served as judge for Coconut Charlie’s fun rockfish tournament, which was won by Mike Smith and his 34-inch striper. More than 25 boats took part. Bud adds that fat white perch can be found off Podicory Point and other structure in 15-18 feet of water, and more fishermen are chasing pickerel in the creeks, with typical arsenal of spinnerbaits and mini-crankbaits.
It has been “a little of the same as last week, mouth of the Patapsco has produced keeper size stripers up to the low 30s (inches). The (Inner) harbor area has mostly mid-20 inch rockfish and smaller,” said Rich Dennison, manager of Tochterman’s Fishing Tackle.
Annapolis angler Mike Killelea checked in to say that this weekend’s fishing was “good but we had to hunt and wait them out. Fish waited for the current mid-day before getting active. Fish were solid mid 20s with our largest at 29 (inches). Look for bigger bait, these fish were not chasing rain minnows. They were chasing and eating 6- to 8-inch menhaden. White was the hot color.”
Fishing from his kayak, South River angler Scott Fritz said he had another good day in Aberdeen Creek on Election Day afternoon. Also in the bay, he’s still catching keeper rockfish along 16-foot depth range, jigging or on poppers. MSSA’s Dale Dirks sent in a nice photo of Debbie Dirks of Edgewater with a fat fall rock she jigged up on Saturday just inside West River buoy No. 1.
Jim at Marty’s Bait & Tackle echoed the good fishing on the Western Shore from Deale and the West River No. 1 Buoy and up to Thomas Point Light. “I’m getting reports of quite a few 30-inch-plus stripers,” he said. “Trollers and jiggers are both doing well.”
Kevin McMenamin from the MSSA Annapolis Chapter fished Eastern Bay among the pack of boats working over diving gulls and breaking fish, where he caught and released numerous undersized rockfish. His “surprise catches” were two undersized sea trout (weakfish) that he caught on a Lil’ Bunker jig, fished right on the bottom. He adds, “If we have a mild winter it would be great to see a return of the sea trout in the middle bay next summer.”
Nathan, a high schooler who helps me out with my summer fishing camps, got on a nice pod of stripers inside Love Point on Monday evening as soon as the wind died out. He and his buddy Wes found “lots of birds; rockfish were everywhere and white BKDs and G-Eye Jigs seemed to be the best. Didn’t have as much action on the white Lil’ Bunkers. Total of around 50 fish in an hour with only 10 that weren’t keepers. The majority were over 25 inches with the largest being 34. Wes lost one at the boat that looked over 35 inches.”
Way south Captain Mike Henderson, owner of Dreamer Chaser Charters and Buzz’s Marina, reports ocean-run rockfish have shown up this week around the mouth of the Potomac, up to the Middle Grounds and at the MD/VA line. “Lots of birds and lots of fat stripers,” he says.
Also fishing out of Buzz’s Marina in St. Jerome’s Creek for the late fall run is Captain Jeff Popp on the charter boat, Vista Lady. He had the Skip Youngblood crew from Freeland, Maryland, aboard the other day, and “we had rockfish from 20-33 inches. Really nice looking, healthy fish, caught by jigging and trolling the channel edges.”
Over on the Atlantic coast, the sea bass and bluefish action has been very good when the weather is fit enough to sail from Ocean City. Several of the OC-based party boats are doing well. The other day I spoke with Eric Burnley, a well-known outdoors writer from Delaware, and he said he went on the Angler and had a banner day on taylor sized and up bluefish. He also said the New Jersey striper fishermen are burning them up. The upcoming mini-cold snap on Saturday could send some of those big migrants down the coast if they haven’t shown up show up already.
Captain Monty on the party boat Morning Star checked in to tell me his groups have been “doing real fine on sea bass trips. Even had a boat limit one day. Sunday, however, I saw too much north wind in the forecast and went inshore togging.” My buddy Jim B. didn’t let a little boat trouble keep him from fishing OC’s inshore structure for tautog over the weekend. And while he didn’t land any fish big enough to keep he caught more than two dozen undersized ones that were at least fun to tussle with.
Submit photos and outdoors calendar listings to [email protected].
Nov. 12: “Rocksgiving” Fishing Tournament, Chesapeake Harbor Marina, Annapolis. Details at 410-268-1969 or rocksgiving.com.
Nov. 12-25: 2nd Split of Duck Season. Black duck season open.
Nov. 14: Pasadena Sportfishing Group meeting. Capt. Charlie Sisson of Backdraft Charters on “Fall Trolling for Rockfish.” Also Bierbender Knife Sharpeners will recondition your blades at discount prices. Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company, 161 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park. Doors open at 6 p.m., talk begins at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 16: MSSA Annapolis Chapter. Local angler Skip Zinck will present “Trolling for Rockfish Using Planer Boards.” Vendor Gary Richie will present his custom made Spankin’ Striper baits. American Legion Post #7, 1905 Crownsville Rd.. Meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 18-20: MSSA’s 24th annual “Chesapeake Bay Fall Classic.” Anglers can fish two of three days, “Lay Day” rule in effect. Register at mssa.net.
Nov. 19-25: 1st Split of Migratory (Atlantic Population) Canada Goose Season. Daily bag limit is two (2) geese and the possession limit six (6).
Nov. 21: MSSA Broadneck/Magothy #10 Chapter Meeting at 7:30 p.m, American Legion Post #175, 832 Manhattan Beach Rd. Severna Park.
Dec. 3: Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Symposium. CBF’s Merrill Center, 6 Herndon Ave., Annapolis. From 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Contact David Sikorski at 443-621-9186 for details.
Dec. 7: Free State Fly Fishers’ “Holiday Dinner.” Mike’s Crab House on the South River, Riva Road Bridge. Details at facebook.com/FSFFMD.
Dec. 13 thru Jan. 28: Final Split of Duck Season.
Dec. 16 thru Feb. 4: Final Split of Migratory (Atlantic Population) Canada Goose Season. Daily bag limit is two (2) geese and the possession limit six (6).
Dec. 7: Maryland DNR Natural Resources 6 p.m. Public meeting for Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden, Calvary United Methodist Church301 Rowe Boulevard, Annapolis. Contact DNR’s Lynn Fegley at [email protected] or 410.260.8285.