Angling through the Months
Yesterday a cold rain fell for hours. Wind followed. Today came with heavy fog and a chill that banished any thoughts of getting out on the Bay for one last fling at the rockfish. As Jim Morrison phrased it, “This is the end, my friend.”
But it has been a good, even a very good, season. The 2011 winter of no winter segued nicely into an equally mild early 2012 season. It was a bit windy, but lack of rain and warm temperatures made early season fishing comfortable.
Rockfish season closes December 15. However pickerel season is just heating up. Good catches of the toothy devils have been reported on the upper Severn and the Magothy. Yellow perch will begin staging soon in the Upper Bay.
Blue Crab Conservation
Despite DNR finding that over a third of Maryland’s mature female crabs vanished over last winter and that the female blue crab population is now seen as the single most important factor in crab reproduction, DNR extended the commercial crab season six days (due to Sandy). The extension insures that commercial fishermen harvest — you guessed it — more female crabs. It is moves like this that make you wonder what the Department is really all about.
Whitetail and sika deer bow season: thru Dec. 14
Whitetail and sika deer muzzle loading season: Dec. 15-29
Light geese: thru Jan. 30
Ducks: thru Jan. 26
Brant: thru Jan. 26
Common snipe: thru Jan. 26
Canada geese: thru Jan. 26
Bobwhite quail: thru Jan. 15
Ruffed grouse: thru Jan. 31
Sea ducks: thru Jan. 31
Cottontail rabbit: thru Feb. 28
Squirrel: thru Feb. 28
Our 2012 angling year started in February with the yellow perch run. Bad luck followed me for the early weeks. Friends tried to alert me to hot locations but I inevitably showed up a day late or early. Still, I made some awesome catches of perch up to 14 inches.
From March well into April, we had one of the best hickory shad runs I’ve ever witnessed. The upper reaches of the Choptank were teeming with the jumping demons. We made trip after trip, scoring 40 to 50 releases each time.
The rockfish trophy season starts by law on the third Saturday in April. This year, that day happened to fall on April 21. The bite was excellent from the start, with many big fish falling to trolled lures as well as some to cut baits. My experience throughout April was excellent. While the bite faltered a bit toward early May, as the big fish exited to the ocean, overall trophy season marked a fine start to the year.
In early May, the white perch run produced a number of decent trips with one outstanding experience on the Nanticoke. Three of us filled a big cooler with especially fat whities and topped it off with a number of chunky channel cats over 18 inches. That trip fed the neighborhood at more than one fish fry.
Mid-May opened the season on smaller rockfish from 18 inches. I did land (and release) a few fish of that size, but the vast majority of fat stripers I put in the box, chumming and fishing cut bait, were 26 to 32 inches.
Toward the end of the month, the white perch ended their spawning runs and took over the estuary. Armed with small light spin rods, four-pound line and spinner baits, spoons and small crank baits, anglers found themselves in the middle of one of the better perch seasons I have ever had on the Bay. We regularly tangled with up to 12-inch perch and soon refused to keep anything under 10. By the end of June, I had already loosened my belt by a couple of notches from all of the fish dinners cooked up at my house.
Because of the warm weather, the Norfolk spot showed up early, enabling live-liners their day on the Bay. Big rockfish are suckers for small spot. Easy limits were a regular thing all the way through the end of July at Podickery, Love Point, the Bay Bridge, Hackett’s, Thomas Point on over to the Gum Thickets and on down to the Hill and the Diamonds. All those holes all held big schools of hungry stripers waiting to snap up our spot.
September saw the commencement of the fall bite as our stripers moved into the shallow water, rivers and creeks, feeding up for winter. However, the top-water bite, my favorite, was difficult for most of the month. Then came Superstorm Sandy.
The Chesapeake was lucky. Even so, early November was sacrificed to the rain and winds that accompanied the enormous weather pattern and seemed to stay with us for weeks afterward. Jigging, bait fishing and trolling the main stem became the prominent producers of nice stripers for the balance of the season.
Cold weather came in mid November, limiting fishing to all but the big boats with heated cabins.
Yet even toward the end, I managed a good trip or two. I’m counting on next year to be almost as good. It’s a big Bay. There will be lots of stripers out there.