Volume 16, Issue 36 - September 4 - September 10, 2008

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Viva September

This month the sporting life can be too much fun

This month begins both the grand finale of our Bay fishing season and our state’s hunting season. So I am looking forward to this Chesapeake September on the heels of the best August angling in the last half-dozen years.

Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, rockfish, big perch, crabbing, archery season, doves, railbirds, resident geese and early teal are all options this month. It is all a sporting soul can do to decide which to pick.

Bluefish have spread just about everywhere in the mid-Chesapeake. They are hitting any shiny lure moved quickly enough. Blues are an exhilarating experience for anglers who like a good scrap and a tasty dinner.

Move those lures just a bit faster and not only will the bluefish still hit. Spanish mackerel will attack as well. While the mac schools tend to stick to deeper main stem waters and move relentlessly, the bluefish will frequent the shallows in the early morning and evening. This time of year provides lots of action to shore-bound anglers using cut bait or throwing plugs and metal with a rapid retrieve.

Fish Are Biting

Blues, Spanish mackerel and rockfish are teeming in the mid-Bay. Mornings and evenings are prime time both in the shallows for foraging game fish and in the main stem for the same predators keying on the large schools of bait forming there.

Crabbing is hot, and the hunting season is upon us. What’s not to like?

Rockfish have already begun their fall feeding patterns, which means they are finally frequenting the tributaries. They are there to intercept baitfish schooling and moving downstream. Early mornings and late afternoons (and sometimes much of an overcast day), stripers are haunting structures in the shallows and the channel edges, ambushing yearling menhaden, perch, spot, silversides and Bay anchovies.

Midday, these same game fish can be found in the Bay proper smashing into bait schools gathered there. Follow the wheeling birds for some incredible surface action. If the fish on top are undersized, try sinking your baits deeper because larger stripers and blues may lurk beneath.

Fly fishers will experience the best bite this month since the spring catch-and-release season. Now that the Bay game fish have moved into shallower water up in the rivers, they are in fly-fishing range. Big poppers and streamers fished around any structure that provides haven to the schooling baitfish will draw immediate attention from the often-hefty stripers hunting them.

Night fishing in particular favors the fly rod this time of year. Big rockfish will be drawn to the bright dock lights that attract (with their illusion of safety) schools of shrimp and bait fish, especially during low moonlight conditions. Throw brightly colored flies in chartreuse, white, pink or yellow where the shadow lines form. Use stout leaders, and be sure your backing is sound.

The mouths of the smaller feeder-estuaries will also attract hungry rock and sometimes blues on falling tides after dark. These predators are there to snack on the baitfish being carried out by the current. Heavily dressed black flies in the Lefty’s Deceiver and Clouser patterns are deadly fished in a wet fly swing, low and slow. Spin- and casting-rod anglers will find BKDs and Bass Assassins just as effective.

Savvy white perch anglers using ultra-light tackle love this time of year as well. Trophy-sized perch are finally moving into the shallower waters. Throwing small plugs such as the one-eighth-ounce Mini-Trap or light spinner baits like the Rooster Tail or Beetle Spin around the rocks, rip rap and piers can result in some intense battles. Big white perch fillets are a special treat for the sporting gourmand.

September is the best month of the year to get your one-bushel crabbing limit. The last, big shed is over, and the larger jimmies have had time to fatten up and fill in their new body armor. The lessened fishing pressure that accompanies the post-Labor Day season is a bonus for crowd-weary crabbers.

September, however, can bring some bad news in the form of hurricane remnants moving up and through the Eastern U.S. These fronts can mean poor fishing, but they can have a silver lining for railbird hunting aficionados.

The unusually high tides accompanying a hurricane front means that the exceedingly elusive marsh hens will concentrate their numbers in the few saltwater marsh islands remaining above water. Gunning for these tasty birds can be excellent.

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