The Atlantic Ocean is vast, obviously, but that point comes into harsh focus when you venture into it in a small fishing skiff. Yet when the ocean is in a good mood and the seas are mild, as they were when Chuck Foster and I left Wachapreague, you get a false sense that you could travel east unencumbered for hundreds of miles.
But we were only going about 25 miles, to the 26 Mile Hill, a tiny charted area that rises 30 to 40 feet and is known to attract tuna, mackerel and dolphin (also called dorado or mahi). Its also a short enough run for small-boat anglers like us to quickly race back to port if the weather changes.
A high-pressure system hanging over the region for several days made conditions near perfect for chasing pelagics aboard Voodoo Cat, my 20-foot power catamaran. Being a newcomer to the offshore game, I fish places like the Jackspot off Ocean City and the 21 and 26 Mile Hills off Wachapreague, good beginner spots that let me learn the basics as I acquire the necessary gear and skills.
A faulty chart plotter kept us at the dock longer than expected, so it was deep into the morning before we motored through Wachapreague Channel, past Fools Gut, then around Dawson Shoals and finally out of the inlet into the ocean. Turbid barrier island backwaters, stained like Seven-11 mud coffee, gave way to the brilliant emerald hues of the Atlantic.
Fishing was slow at first, but we found a rack line of debris, which often holds fish, and a couple passes produced a small dolphin less than five pounds. As we brought it along boatside, dark vertical bands set off its vibrant greens and blues, then sporadically disappeared and reappeared. We worked the line for the next hour, hooking four king mackerel and landing two. One slipped the hook at the transom and the other, well, lets just say my netting execution could have been better on that particular occasion.
Called kingfish by some, the king mackerel appears metallic in the water. This was the first kingfish I have caught, but I hope not the last. Our biggest fish was better than 30 inches and pushed 10 pounds, plenty big enough for a few grilled filets with some meat left over for the smoker. They can grow to better than 100 pounds and five feet long. If I happen to have the good fortune of hooking up with one that size, it might mean its time for a bigger boat.
Fish Are Biting
Well, lately they havent been, and if this keeps up well have to change the name of our fishing report. Perhaps Sherlock Holmes might be able to decipher the fishing pattern of late, but some Bay anglers are stumped.
Cool water temperatures have rockfish spread out, and heavy pressure, particularly on weekends, doesnt help. Because the charter guys fish everyday, they have a hand up on locating fish; still, some days they are working hard for limits. Most are still trolling. Down toward Choptank and Patuxent rivers, trolling is still preferred, although some are chumming.
Try dragging parachutes and bucktails in yellow, white and chartreuse from Breezy Point to Parkers Creek just along the channel edges. In the Upper Bay, chumming at Love Point and Swan Point might work, but use circle hooks because the keeper-to-undersized ratio runs heavy in favor of small fish.
You might try livelining spot past structure such as Kent Narrows and Hoopers Island Bridge. Croaker, spot, and some trout are in Choptank, Poplar Island Narrows, and the Gooses, particularly at night for the hardhead. DNR reports that chumming at Buoy 72 and Buoy 72A continues to produce fish, and bluefish are busting bait on the surface near the Middle Grounds. Also be on the lookout for Spanish mackerel.
DNR reports a 70-pound black drum caught at the Gale Lumps, south of Pooles Island.