by C.D. Dollar
That Kind of Day
That Kind of Day
Eastern Bay-Sometimes you can do everything right and still have to work hard for fish. Perhaps I have been spoiled over the last four and a half months, but within the last couple of weeks the rockfishing has been slow in the Annapolis area. Chuck Foster and I looked to break out of that pattern.
Well before dawn, we launched Chuck's custom 20-foot center console from Little Creek off Crab Alley Bay. We were loaded to the gunwales with a complete arsenal of trolling gear: spreaders, bucktails of various colors, six rods and two dummy lines, which consist of fishing lure connected to a monofilament leader, then a length of thin diameter line and finally an 18-inch section of shock cord lashed to a stern cleat. A heavy ball-weight keeps the rig deep in the water column. The effectiveness of the dummy line is above question, and I imagine the rig dates back many decades. The name is probably taken from the sash weights - dummy weights - used in older double-hung windows.
Eastern Bay offers a tremendous diversity of fishing, from the fast-moving currents of Kent Narrows to drop-offs at the end of marsh points to the deep channels and their edges. We began the day working peeler baits near a spit of marsh that had a nice rip moving through it. Moving southward, we tossed bait into an area of fallen trees. On one retrieve to check my bait, I had a follow right up to the boat. Apparently Chuck noticed too, as he stealthily tossed a white bucktail with a plastic tail in the exact area. By the time I noticed him, he already had a keeper rockfish on, at which I had to laugh. A few more perch were taken, but Chuck had his sights on big stripers, so trolling was next on the agenda.
Chuck's trolling operation is as impressive as it is complicated. Yet what seems like chaos to me is actually a very effective and systematic method to take big fish. Two- and three-foot rollers were coming steadily from the south, and the screen was stacked with fish and balls of bait. I was anticipating a strike very soon and wasn't disappointed when it came. The first fish taken was a 17-inch bunker. That's correct: a menhaden snagged through the lip as we passed through an enormous concentration of baitfish. On the scope it looked like a kid's doodle: a massive black circle.
Little else came of our efforts, so we picked up and headed in. Luckily, I had the good fortune of a dove shoot in Charles County, but Chuck had to go to work. As we pulled in the baits, five of the plastic shad imitations had the tails bitten off, the signature of snapper bluefish. One bait, however, had half the body removed and the teeth imprints pointed to a bluefish of considerable size. By a fraction of an inch, the fish escaped the sharpened steel. It was that kind of day.
Fish Are Biting
Having recently returned from his adventure running Alaska's Inside Passage as crew aboard a converted trawler, Paul Willey of Annapolis wasted little time breaking out his fly rod to chase busting snapper blues off Hacketts Point. While no match for behemoth sockeye salmon so thick you could catch them barehanded (which Paul did), the blues prove that the fishing around these parts is still pretty exciting, albeit slow in recent days.
In the upper Bay, Pooles Island and Tea Kettle Shoals hold big rockfish taken on drifted eels. Mike Smith of Towson showed me one such prize earlier in the week. Jamie from Anglers reports breaking rockfish from Thomas Point north, though most are undersized. Use any reasonable facsimile of anchovy or silverside: Clousers, Rattle Traps or feather jigs. Eels at the Bay Bridges work, but chummers in the region have struggled. Trollers working the 30-foot edges along the channels off Gum Thickets and similar locales catch the bigger rockfish.
In the Patuxent River complex, bottom fishing is "going crazy," according to the Rod 'n' Reel's Fred Donovan down in Chesapeake Beach. Mostly it's jumbo spot, but good sized flounder and sea trout are making their way onto anglers' hooks as well. To date, chumming is not the preferred method in these waters; too warm perhaps. Trollers working the Western Shore from Breezy Point to the Gas Docks have scored nice stripers; some days in 24 to 28 feet of water and others in 34 to 38 feet.
In the lower Bay, DNR's Martin Gary says bluefish to seven pounds are the stars. The biggest blues are reported at the mouth of the Potomac and from the Mud Leads to the SW Middle Grounds. From buoy #72 south to the Target Ship, chummers are taking small but legal rockfish, while trollers had decent success from Cedar Point Hollow to the Targets.
Spanish mackerel remain very abundant from Cedar Point Hollow south to Smith Point, and Tangier Sound has had erratic bottom fishing for spot and weakfish. Spotted sea trout are still being reported in fair numbers from the shallows of South Marsh and Bloodsworth Islands, as well as around the holes of Fox Island and Cedar Marsh.
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VolumeVI Number 37
September 17-23, 1998
New Bay Times
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