|The Outdoor Lure of Late Autumn
I love this time of year. The weather starts to get a real edge to it, but the fishing is still good and waterfowl options are numerous. So I definitely plan to do a little of both over the holiday, in between sittings.
The fall striper season concludes on November 30, but there are still plenty of rockfish in the Bay (see report below). When our season goes out, there is still the Virginia season and the action around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which has yielded significant numbers of large stripers the past several years.
A lot closer to home is the fantastic chain pickerel, a worthy adversary by any angling standard. This hard-fighting, rod-bending gamefish gives no quarter, providing more than enough excitement during the cold months to placate even the most ardent angler. Chain pickerel are voracious feeders that patrol underwater grass beds and fallen timber, then ambush unsuspecting prey. Over the last several years, chain pickerel in the Severn and Magothy rivers have been abundant for anglers willing to put in the time and brave the chilly air.
Pickerel are fast growers that reach 14 inches by age three and 20 inches with full bodies within six years. Under optimum conditions, they may max out at nine pounds and 36 inches long, but fish in the 18- to 24-inch range are more common. A six-weight fly rod loaded with a sinking line or sink tip works well. Leaders need not be elaborate for most conditions, and a balanced leader six- to eight-feet long is usually sufficient. Bear in mind that pike have sharp teeth, so a shock leader of, say, 15- to 20-pound test may be a wise move. Yellow-over-white Clouser flies tied on a long shank hook (#1 to 2/0) are a good choice, but I also like dark colored flies.
And let's not forget waterfowl hunting, a traditional Thanksgiving excursion in Chesapeake Country. We've seen an encouraging number of ducks so far this year, and some early scouting reports indicate that there are plenty of snow geese around. Last winter, Maryland Department of Natural Resources' mid-winter waterfowl count included approximately 60,000 birds that wintered along the shoreline of Kent County and on Eastern Bay for the first time. Without a doubt, snow geese are the craftiest birds to fool with your decoys. A late-season bloom of widgeon and redhead might also take the pressure off the fish.
When you take part in cold weather activities, hypothermia is a real threat, so be prepared for the weather. Dress in layers and wear your life jacket, especially in the dead of winter. If you fish for several hours, a thermos filled with your favorite hot drink helps ward off the chill, and food is essential to keep your body temperature up.
Fish are Biting
The monster, ocean-run rockfish continue to make to their way northward, sea lice and all. Kathy Coner from Bunky's (410/326-3241) in Solomons says that HI Buoy, Middle Grounds and Buoy 72 have produced big stripers for trollers. Sea trout are still around and anglers can jig them up.
Fred Donovan from Rod 'n' Reel (800/233-2080) in Chesapeake Beach reports that some of the fleet are currently working right out front in 40 to 70 feet of water, hooking larger stripers in the 35- to 40-inch range. Fishin' Charlie Ebersberger of Anglers (410/974-4013) near Annapolis says big rock are showing up, and that Thomas Point, the Bay Bridge area and Bloody Point may produce large fish. He says most of the trout have headed south, but large rockfish take jigs and trolled bucktails and parachutes.