by C.D. Dollar
The laughing gulls were laughing and the terns were turning, then diving, over pods of breaking bluefish at the mouth of the Chester River last weekend, much to our delight. Karl Roscher and I left Deep Creek, off the Magothy River, just after daybreak with the sole purpose of finding breaking fish, and we weren't disappointed.
For the better part of two hours, we cast into the swarm of snapper blues and rambunctious rockfish, though the size of each species was definitely on the small side. With the barbs on our hooks mashed and dehooker at the ready, we had steady action on small spoons and feather jigs for nearly two hours. We even pulled in a few bluefish big enough to smoke, although of the dozen and a half rockfish caught, only one approached legal size, and it wasn't all that close.
I found that the blues stayed away from all but the silver metal spoons, the rock showed no preference for one particular lure and none took any soft plastics (though I only cast them about five times). Early in the morning, it also seemed that there were two distinct schools, each species sticking more or less with its own kind. That changed during the second half of the bite, it seemed.
There is much talk about the greater abundance of bait in the Bay this year compared to recent seasons. Anchovies, silversides and young-of-the-year menhaden are fueling the rockfish in most parts of the Bay currently. The silversides were prevalent forage on this day.
The availability of bait is one factor that has made charter captains and recreational fishermen stick with trolling for rockfish, which marks a definite change in strategy from last year. In the last few seasons, on many weekends literally thousands of boats would be ladling chum overboard. In terms of numbers of fish caught, Karl, who works for Maryland's Department of Agriculture monitoring the Bay's aquaculture industry, clearly outfished me, which of course I attribute to my experimentation with different lures (seriously).
Later that morning, we observed several charter boats trolling hoses and for a 45-minute span catching what appeared to be three to five bluefish quite regularly. Without true trolling gear, our only option was to rig small spoons onto spinning rods to try and get some hits. We also drifted crab bait through the area without so much as a hit, so we moved on before the high from the morning gave way to that sinking feeling of watching other people catch fish right next to you while your line remains slack.
Fish Are Biting
Crabbing in many of the Bay tributaries remains excellent, particularly in the Severn, Chester, Wye and South rivers. Overall the crabbing has picked up for the commercial guys as well, but according to many Bay scientists, the crab fishery is fully exploited. A recent report from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science indicates a 70 percent decline in the blue crab spawning stock over the last five years. The abundance of all age groups is also down. Both declines point to a fishery that is stressed, which doesn't bode well for crab stocks in the long term.
Upper Bay fishing in Eastern Bay has produced spot and croaker. Bluefish are off Swan and Love Points, and Hacketts and Tolley bars are holding perch, spot and occasional rockfish.
In the middle Bay, fishing in the Choptank River area is good on the edges of the oyster bars. Bottom fishing with bloodworms can bring Norfolk spot (some jumbo), croakers and some sea trout. Fred from Rod 'n' Reel tackle shop in Chesapeake Beach tells me that anglers targeting Spanish mackerel (trolling small gold spoons) have done very well and that decent numbers of bluefish have been taken at Sharps Island flats.
Trollers dragging white bucktails and spoons from Breezy Point south have caught keeper rockfish and a few snapper bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Kathy from Bunky's Charters (410/326-3241) in Solomons says that plenty of spot and croaker can be caught inside the Patuxent River and at the Chinese Muds and Hog Island.
| Issue 34 |
Volume VII Number 34
August 26 - September 1, 1999
New Bay Times
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