Chesapeake Outdoors

by C.D. Dollar


In fishing, as with most things, it pays to be persistent. On the first Sunday of the fall rockfish season, six of us boarded Capt. Dave Byrd's charter boat, Jen-Tre, to go after some rockfish. The trip was part of the celebration surrounding Brian Shelton's upcoming wedding. As co-best man (hey, it's the '90s), Matt Miller selected an afternoon time slot, perhaps not the best choice for fishing but certainly the right one considering the previous evening's festivities. Apparently, a lot of cold beverages were consumed and the group - Brian's brother Mike, dad L.C., Miller and Tom Ervin - looked like they needed the late start to rally.

As we cleared the breakwaters protecting the Rod 'n' Reel marina at Chesapeake Beach, Capt. Byrd and mate JoJo ran the boat south near the Radar Towers where we were to start trolling. But as soon as the lines were dropped, Dave told JoJo to pick 'em up. A tip via marine radio from another charter captain said that the bite was on at the Gas Docks. After a 35-minute run and another hour-plus of dragging parachutes and umbrella rigs, we had nothing to show for our efforts. Ironically, word came over the horn that fish were hitting trolled lures in the place where we first intended to fish, so we reeled in and headed back.

On the way, we passed four pods of breaking fish, replete with diving terns and gulls. It hurt my feelings a bit to leave fish to find them, to run right past them without so much as a toss into the fray. But with trolling gear, leaders and lures taking up deck space, spincasting to breaking fish was impractical.

The second tip proved reliable, and within two hours we had our limit. Except for a couple, these rockfish were in the 18- to 20-inch range, which means they were part of that mammoth 1993 year class. Though the abundance was encouraging, they were all skinny fish, giving credence, anecdotally at least, to the idea that the lack of forage fish in the Bay is making rockfish undernourished, an issue we may have to deal with sooner than later.

Overall, we had a good day, freed from any pressure to find the fish and produce hookups by Byrd and JoJo's solid professionalism. They were steady in the handling of the boat and trolling rigs, allowing Shelton and his merry band to reel in fish, enjoying the water and the camaraderie of friends. In my eyes, the boy has enough to worry about.


Fish Are Biting

As reported by Maryland Department of Natural Resources, charter boat captains and tackle shops, the first weekend of the fall rockfish season was very productive for many anglers but slow for others. For example, Charlie from Anglers reports that overall striper fishing was slow, saying the tide never really got going. At Hacketts Point, however, he did well on white perch, and when he live-lined a decent-sized perch for rock, a bluefish he estimates at 10 pounds took the middle out of the lined perch. Chumming, live eels and trolling are all viable options.

Spot and catfish catches continue to be steady on the oyster lumps off Gibson Island, Chester River and off Kent Island. Snapper blues have been breaking above the Bay Bridge, and white perch bit abundantly at the pilings on grass shrimp or bloodworms.

Meanwhile, DNR reports that croaker and trout can be found from Love Point to Swan Point and anywhere in between on hard bottom in depths of about 18 to 25 feet. Clam snouts, crab and squid all work. The hard bottom from Thomas Point to Hacketts continues to produce white perch and a few spot.

The best fishing seems to be in the middle Bay. Kathy from Bunky's Charters in Solomons told me the Gas Docks, Cove Point and Second Beach all held plenty of stripers -- good sized, too. From the West River south past Cedar Point, plenty of good-sized rockfish are available. Good catches were made at the LNG Gas Docks. Trollers did well all along the Western shore in 27 to 34 foot depths.

Holland Point Bar has spot, weakfish and some croaker. Flounder have been abundant along the eastern edge from buoy #84 south. Flounder can also be found on the edges of the false channel, Eastern Bay channel edges and scattered along the flats of the Western Shore from Deale to Breezy Point.

Still some croaker are holding along the eastern channel edge from the Hooper Island Light to the Middle Grounds. Weakfish are mixed in with the croaker. Chumming is producing good catches of rockfish and three-to five-pound blues, mostly along the eastern edge of the channel from the target ship to HS Buoy. Some very good flounder action can be found on the edge off Buoy #76 and in Cornfield Harbor.

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VolumeVI Number 33
August 20-26, 1998
New Bay Times

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