|Small Tails Make Good Fish Tales
Trust me, I much prefer to be writing about a mammoth rockfish or monster sea trout that I or one of my fishing partners tangled with. But that wasn't to be this week, so I become fascinated with the reckless abandon in which the sea trout and young rockfish preyed upon our bait. In the last couple weeks, I have mostly been casting tandem flies (clousers of different sizes tied on a dropper rig and fished on 400-grain line), jigging metal and soft plastic lures and feather jigs for trout and rock. Both methods try to imitate the baitfish on which the rock and trout are gorging. In the late fall, this preferred bait is almost always Bay anchovies, a ubiquitous forage species that fuels the migration of trout and rockfish.
One rough day, I cast flies at the Bay Bridge pilings where the wind and tide converged to create miniature tsunamis for the hapless bait, tossing them against the huge concrete structures. If that weren't bad enough, rockfish plucked them off the surface and the trout, which were much farther down in the water column, devoured them. Birds took their share, as well. On the fish finder, the screen was blotted out with baitfish.
When the terns and gulls aren't swooping down on the bands of baits, natural oil slicks from the remains of bait on the surface can help point out fishy spots for trout. Often times anglers will pull up a sea trout from depths greater than 75 feet only to be greeted by bits of anchovies disgorged at the surface or on the deck. Once the most plentiful fish in the Bay, anchovies have large mouths disproportionate to the rest of their bodies and a bright silver streak running nearly the length of the fish. I'm pretty certain many anglers hardly give the anchovy a thorough look, but it is an important part of what drives the sea trout and rockfish, which of course are what drive us.
Fish are Biting
When the wind stops blowing long enough, the fishing has been excellent for sea trout and rockfish. Trout are schooled up in various spots from Smith Island past the Bay Bridge, with better class fish south of Tilghman Island. Stingsilvers, feather jigs and Bass Assassins are some of the preferred lures. For the last several weeks, trollers using big parachutes, bucktails and umbrella rigs dressed with shad and twister tails have been hooking the large ocean-run rockfish that take a right turn at Chesapeake Bay, making a pit stop from their annual migration from New England to North Carolina.
Among the hot spots are Buoy 83-A, the channel edges out front of the Choptank and Patuxent rivers; Deale; Chesapeake Beach; and the HI Buoy. If the weather cooperates, anglers may experience an exciting end to the 2000 rockfish season, which runs until midnight on November 30.
Some big rockfish are still in the shallows, particularly at night, according to Dave Cola. He has been fishing the points from Tolley Point to Thomas Point from his kayak and has done very well with poppers. He told me he recently caught a very fat 28-incher that ran with the tide and dragged him around until he brought it to hand - literally since he didn't have a landing net. Now that's a hard-core angler I've got to go fishing with!