The Fish Are Big
From all indications, the last quarter of 2012 isn’t going to set any fishing records before rockfishing closes December 15. There have been very few days when being on the water was anything other than an ordeal.
Pick your days and be patient. Those are the two rules to follow in the latter part of our rockfish season. Big fish as well as those in the 20- to 28-inch range have been caught. But it takes long days and persistent effort to get the job done. Trolling, chumming and jigging have all been producing when the weather permits.
Whitetail and sika deer bow season:
However, after a long stretch of 40-degree nights and water temperatures falling below 50 degrees, big ocean-run rockfish have begun arriving to winter in the Bay. These big fish are constantly moving about in small pods, so they’re devilishly difficult to locate.
Judging by the recent MSSA fishing tournament results, the giants seem to be roaming from Bloody Point down through the Solomons area. Many of the larger tournament fish (30 to 40 pounds) were taken by boats trolling those areas. White parachute rigs ruled.
Other good baits for trolling for larger fish are big (#21) Tony Accettas, Crippled Alewifes and Bunker Spoons. Chrome is the spoon finish most mentioned. Fish these baits at low speeds far back behind the boat.
Light-tackle jigging is also bringing in some fish around the Bay Bridge when weather permits. Assassins and BKDs in white and chartreuse fished near the bottom are getting good rockfish. Some days the fish seem to want a jig tipped with a bull minnow or a Berkley Gulp four-inch mullet.
On the few calm days we’ve had, chummers have had some success. But it’s been hit or miss, and if you chum, you’d better be prepared for days of meager returns in exchange for the possibility of one good trip. Of course if you hit a 50-pound fish on that one trip it’s all worth it, and there are some 50-pounders out there. Love Point, Podickery and Hackett’s have all been sites of success. There’s no reason why the Gum Thickets and the mouth of the Eastern Bay shouldn’t produce as well.
If shore-bound fishermen can find a lee, and if they are adequately clothed and can warm up in a nearby car from time to time, they might score a few fish. But there are more than a few throwbacks. Fresh menhaden is the bait of choice now that the Norfolk spot have fled the Bay. Take plenty of hot coffee or cocoa if you attempt one of these sorties. Nighttime is better than daytime but also about 15 degrees colder.
Warm up on the Sweet Water
One alternative to the big, cold Chesapeake is to try the fresh water. Our smaller sweet water impoundments are usually buffered from the winds by tree-lined shores. This time of year you can still hit a few big largemouth, some goodly numbers of crappie and, of course, our cold weather pickerel.
Live bait is the best way to go as the cold weather slows down everything except the pickerel. Bull minnows suspended under a bobber and fished slowly around laydowns, piers, docks and brushy edges will take all of these fish. Anglers who insist on fishing with artificials will find that spinner baits, small soft plastics and small crank baits worked slowly will still get a fair share of nice fish.