Don’t Be Late

You’ve got a hot date with a hungry trophy rockfish
      Calling the 2018 trophy rockfish season disappointing is understating the situation. At two weeks in, the four-week season has set a record low for keeper-sized fish boated.
      By the time you read this column, all this bad news will be old news. We will be in the midst of a big-fish blitz unlike anything we’ve seen before. That’s my prediction, and I’m sticking to it.
      Plan on fishing as many days as possible the rest of the trophy season. Use up your vacation time and your honey-do points now. If you delay in hopes of improved fishing reports and the confirmation of a good bite, you’re going to miss half of the action. It’s going to be that fast and furious.
      Don’t wait for the best conditions. Tides and currents, wind and rain, baitfish concentrations and predictions of fish movement — All will be irrelevant. Things will unfold rapidly and unpredictably. Stick with the first rule for the best time to fish: whenever you can.
 
Here’s Why
       Up near the headwaters where spawning rockfish have been waiting for the proper temperatures for egg survival, there is not a lot of food. The yellow and white perch also ascending the tributaries are not the best forage species for rockfish. Nor do they provide the biomass to sustain a big population of stripers in such a limited area for very long.
     When the rockfish have finally spawned and are heading back to the Bay then the ocean, they will be in a hurry — and they will be hungry. There have been no reports of any unusually large baitfish concentrations in the mid-Bay, the only thing that could tempt the bigger fish to pause before their exit. So don’t expect them to hesitate and hang around.
       It’s probably foolhardy to make such a prediction since, as I’ve said, the current situation is unusual. Plus, my historical record of accuracy in making pronouncements is bad. This time, however, I’m going to go with the blind-pig gambit: Even a blind pig scores an acorn from time to time. The trophy season is bound for gangbusters.
       I’ve got my boat prepped and ready with a full gas tank, my rods cleaned and set to go. My reels have fresh line and are further treated with line conditioner to insure softness and low friction. My hooks are sharpened and ready for action. I’m starting out tomorrow to fish every spare minute.
       I’ve laid in a fresh supply of the best quality fluorocarbon leader material and double-checked my fish finder sleeves and my ball bearing swivels for setting up my bait rigs. I’ve got a good supply of a variety of sinkers, and I’ve alerted my bait supplier I will be at his doorstep often. I’ve also got a bag set up with light-tackle trolling lures and soft plastic jigs in a variety of sizes, weights and colors in case I locate a concentration of big fish holding in one area.
      One thing I know for sure is that the temperature abnormality holding back the hordes of fish up in the tributaries will break any day now. I want to be on the water when it happens. I suggest that you do the same. After these big guys are gone, it’ll be next year before we see them again.
 
Fish Finder
The trophy rockfish season is accelerating. Every day more anglers are scoring a few more keepers. But the bulk of the big spawners have yet to hit the mainstem for their exit to the ocean. This cannot last. The big fish will be moving en masse soon. Be on the water when it begins.
Trolling is the superior method for tempting fish. They will be hungry. There’s not a lot of food up in the spawning areas, and eating hasn’t been their primary urge. After the spawn it will be.
If you’re not game for rockfish, hickory shad are very hot, particularly on the Choptank and at Deer Creek. Hitting shad darts (of course), small spoons and small, curly-tail jigs, they are favoring chartreuse right now but not exclusively. White perch are returning downstream. Look for that bite to improve promptly.