I snaked my skiff through the channel guts, past the crab shanties and spartina that shot up around Ewell, then out through the rock jetties buffering the entrance to the small Smith Island village. A stiff souwester kicked up a decent chop, and the only flat water lay on the leeward side of the channel entrance. On the suggestion of Crisfield-area light-tackle and fly-fishing guide Kevin Josenhans, it was here wed cast our lures.
It was too rough to fish the Targets off Tangier Islands western shore, where the previous evening several Chesapeake Bay Foundation supporters and I caught some of the fattest and most-colorful weakfish (also called yellowfins in these parts) Id seen. The weakies have been running large and plentiful for a couple weeks, according to Tangierman and colleague Capt. Charles Parks. Light-tackle fishermen are nothing if not generous, and his tip proved good as gold. On an ebbing tide, we had about two hours of action and plenty of fresh fish for the fry pan.
The fishing was considerably slower this day, mostly smaller rockfish. Wed heard that some speckled trout were around, so I offered Court Van Clief, a writer for Virginia Outdoor Weekly and vice president of the Coastal Conservation Association of Virginia, a sparkling pink jighead and a chartreuse soft plastic tail.
He tossed the lure across the rip at the end of the jetty. Almost immediately a subtle tap, then turn and run, told us hed hit pay dirt.
As I put the net to the roe-laden speck which we quickly weighed (6.75 pounds) and released my mind flashed back three weekends, when a friend and I trolled for an eternity only to end our day skunk-soaked and disillusioned at our misfortune. But thats fishing, and if you cant endure the bad days, you wont savor the fine days.
Fish Are Biting
Bay water temperatures are into the 70s, which has brought our summer visitors: flounder, bluefish, black drum and redfish or red drum, just to name several.
According to Pat from Rod n Reel, the charter fleet has been chumming up legal rockfish from 18 to 24 inches on local shell bars and other spots just out front of Chesapeake Beach. He says the black drum action is slow, but some folks are catching a few at Stone Rock on soft crab. The night bite for croaker aboard the headboat Tom Hooker has produced at the Gooses. A smattering of sea trout and snapper bluefish rounds out the menu. Gas Docks are crowded.
In the Annapolis-Eastern Bay-Tilghman area, Kevin Jacobs on Kent Island tells me that Love Point, The Hill and Hacketts Bar have been reliable spots for chummers seeking legal rockfish. Chummed alewife and hooks baited with razor clams are the ticket.
When chumming or baitfishing, remember to use circle hooks to avoid unnecessary mortality on fish you intend to release. To avoid the crowds, Id suggest fishing off peak days and/or anchoring on the fringe of the fleet. It pays to look at your sounder to mark fish before ladling your slick.