Burton on the Bay:

Bill Burton's Trophy Rockfish Tips

The outlook couldn't be better for Maryland's spring trophy rockfish season, which opens at 5 Friday morning. Fishermen who have explored the Bay in the past couple of weeks have found that many fish have already left their spawning grounds and are hurrying down the Chesapeake.

Most anywhere along deep channel edges, rockfish have turned up. Most of them are well above the 28-inch minimum for this season. The fish are scattered from the Brewerton Channel at the mouth of the Patapsco River all the way down to waters off the Potomac. Anglers who troll the channel edges should do well.

Anyone can catch big rockfish in Maryland's spring trophy season. It's the one time of the year when - if you're rigged right, have the right bait, and are at the right place at the right time - you have as much chance as that veteran charterboat skipper or experienced recreational fisherman in the boat a hundred yards off your bow.

Any Chesapeake angler past novice stage has ideas about catching rock. But I've learned in over 40 years that there are some basics that can mean the difference between fish stories and fish eating.

Here's how to rig the action end of the line and where to wet it.

Keep in mind that during the trophy season, fish don't school up. Sometimes there is just one heading down the Bay after spawning; other times a couple or perhaps a small patch. Luck plays a prominent role, but in fishing you must be prepared when your lucky moment comes.

So we offer a map suggesting some of the areas to fish and the techniques to employ. They should help the newcomer - maybe even an angler who has fished the trophy season many times but has yet to reel in a trophy.


Some Basics

Good fishing.


Where to Meet Your Fish

Truthfully, there are no secret, consistent hot spots during the spring trophy season. The big fish are scattered. It's a matter of intercepting them as they head south; being at the right place at the right time, and with the right bait. Luck plays a major role, but some areas are better than others.

For best overall fishing, stay to deep waters along the edges of the channel, sometimes in the channel.

Following are waters where I've done best-

A: The mouth of the Patapsco could be productive in early season as the fish that have completed their spawning ritual in the upper Chesapeake start moving down the Bay. Not recommended for large fish in late season.

B: Chumming and trolling: Love Point or Swan Point above there. Some chumming/eeling for big rock even on the mud flats.

C: Stay to the western side of the channel for good trolling and chumming hereabouts. No specific area.

D: Deep water off Gum Thickets the past couple years have been very good for rock fish during the trophy season. A drop-off just northwest of it can be counted on for larger fish. Trolling catches 'em, but chummers can do better. Also, troll from here to Bloody Point on the eastern edge of channel.

E: Bloody Point is where 12-year old David Nolan of Hampstead got his state record rock of 67.5 pounds ( 52 inches) while trolling from his father's 22-foot boat on May 13 of 1995.

F: From the Silver Ball south to the Clay Banks should be dependable much of the season. Two state rock records were set here over the years at the edge of the channel.

G: The general area of the Gooses is usually good. A 64-pound 11-ouncer caught there held the earlier record.

H: Cove Point can be good on both sides of the channel; consistent fishing hereabouts. Trolling preferred.

I: The mouth of the Patuxent and across to the Hooper/Honga River complex (but you must stay in the main Bay) is well worth a try. Stay to the channel edges.

J: A good choice is Point No Point, and above here on both edges of the channel. Can be rough on windy days, but fish don't mind - and they stay late in the season.

K: Don't expect much for big fish in early season at Point Lookout, Middle Grounds and Triangle - but plan on closing out with a bang. Rock aplenty and chumming should be excellent as usual. Trolling catches them, too. Best mid- to late-season bet of all.

| Back to Archives |

VolumeVI Number 16
April 23-29 1998
New Bay Times

| Current Issue |