Volume XVII, Issue 36 # September 3 - September 9, 2009

Fish Are Biting

The area from Poplar Island south into the mouth of the Eastern Bay has been wild, non-stop surface action. Large schools of nice rockfish, good-sized blues and record numbers of big Spanish mackerel are abundant and feeding in a top-water bite that has been incredible. White perch have suddenly turned on in all the tributaries like they’ve never been missing (which they have). Spot and croaker are still hanging around in great numbers.

Crabbing is better in September than it has been the whole earlier season. Crabs are running thick, and they are fat and juicy. But there are already a lot of females and many smaller crabs mixed in with the prime jimmies. Have extra bait on hand and rig trotlines with larger pieces. Otherwise, you’ll be picked clean by the sallys, sooks and little guys before you can manage your basket of keepers.

The Bittersweet Month

September is the best month for fishing on the Bay but also the beginning of the end

For amateurs, Labor Day, September 7 this year, marks the end of the recreational summertime on the Chesapeake. But for Tidewater outdoor regulars, September is more than the first month of fall. It is the sweetest month of the whole season.

Fishing for rock, blues, Spanish, spot and perch is exploding now. Crabbing, which was great in August, is getting even better.

Schools of silversides, anchovies, spot and menhaden are forming and beginning to move down the tributaries into the main stem of the Bay into even larger schools preparing for migration to winter grounds.

Hordes of rockfish, blues and Spanish mackerel are keying on these large concentrations as they drive them to the surface and attack in an activity called breaking.

This action is often advertised by large numbers of seabirds working low over the water as they pick up the baitfish, stunned and injured in the melees. Chasing and fishing these moving fish feasts is exciting and productive.

Surface lures will work well under these conditions, particularly baits that cause a lot of commotion on the water. Have a good-sized selection so you can emulate the length of the baitfish, often an important consideration in catching fish.

If the rockfish on top prove to be undersized in a particular area, switch to sinking baits such as Bass Assassins, BKDs or Tsunami and Storm soft-swim baits. If there are blues or Spanish around, switch to metal lures.

Work your lures on the down-current side of the breaking fish, letting the baits get deep before starting to work them. Larger fish, sometimes much larger, will often be well beneath the action on top, leisurely picking up the injured baitfish missed by the frantic juniors above.

When casting to a surface-feeding school, work the edges first and keep in mind that the rock, blues and Spanish mackerel each respond differently to retrieval speeds. Slower lure manipulation will get good results with rockfish. Faster retrieving will excite bluefish into striking, especially with shinny metal such as spoons, Acme Kastmasters or Hopkins Jigs. Fast and extra-fast retrieves will trigger strikes from the Spanish; they like a flashing silver lure, as well.

Boating Skills for the Season

Special boating etiquette is required when fish are breaking.

The first rule is never to motor into a school of breaking fish. Determine the direction in which the school is moving and circle around at a distance to get ahead of it. Then cut your engine and await their arrival. Don’t allow your motor to idle while fishing these schools, for it will split them, put them down or, worse, stop the bite.

There will probably be other boats working the same schools, so keep a courteous distance from your neighbor and don’t cut them off from the fish. If you decide to leave while the bite is still ongoing, do so quietly, motoring slowly out of the area before going up on plane.

If you’re trolling, drag extra long lines and pass to the outside of the school before turning to present your lures to the fish. Run your boat through breaking fish, and you’ll anger everyone working that area and probably not catch anything, either. Boat movement and noise puts fish down.

The Bittersweet Month

Alas, September is the bittersweet month. It is the best month of the year for anglers of all stripes, but it is also the beginning of the end. It’s going to be a long winter, so get your outdoor jollies while you can.

© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.