Chesapeake Outdoors
Less Loony This Year
By C.D. Dollar

Even though it is already mid-November, until this morning, I had yet to see my first loon of the fall. In years past, these migrants have arrived in our Bay waters in late September, with the full force of the migrating population arriving in the Chesapeake Bay region by October. For the remainder of autumn, they feed actively on menhaden and other baitfish in anticipation of their trip to their wintering grounds in the sounds and open ocean along the Outer Banks.

Once there, they will reveal their breeding plumage, and as a result of this molt, they are flightless. Because they cannot fly or feed during this time, a gluttonous feeding during the weeks and months they are on the Chesapeake is essential to hold them over.

I am not sure if these spells of Indian Summer have delayed the heavy push south by the majority of the loons or if they are already in another part of the Bay. I do know that, from what I have seen, other waterfowl like ducks and snow geese are also slow to arrive.

I had a few false loon alarms in the instant after a cormorant, another fishing bird that resembles a loon, broke the water's surface. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, because I really enjoy watching loons fish. But in the Chester River, several hundred yards away from a small patch of terns and gulls working over baitfish that small rockfish were marauding, the longish, gray-blue bill that popped up along the channel was unmistakable.

Loons are powerful swimmers with large, webbed feet to propel them through the water quickly. Expert divers, loons can chase their prey - often menhaden because it is high in protein - to depths of more than 40 feet. Loons will at times work together to round up baitfish and run through them, picking them off.

On this brief excursion, my success ratio of keeper rockfish and trout to undersized rockfish was not stellar. I'm sure that wasn't the case for the loon.


Fish are Biting

For the last couple weeks, the tide cycles - in the upper Bay at least - have been very peculiar. It almost seems as if there is a perpetual ebb tide, there is that much less water. The tide log shows less height fluctuation from high to low tide.

Earlier in the week, the Bay Bridge was still hot for loads of small rockfish, and there are keeper rockfish and good-sized trout around the Stone Piles and the concrete pilings if you look. Bass assassins, feather jigs and metal jigs like Crippled Herring all seem to jig fish up. Love Point chummers take legal rockfish, and trollers are also scoring but infrequently.

Sea trout catches are being reported in many areas of the Bay, including Eastern Bay and off Breezy Point. Often, the weakies are in water deeper than 50 feet. Try Summer Gooses, the Diamonds and Stone Rock for chumming. Trolling parachutes and banjo bucktails along the channel edges in front of Hoopers Island can land a nice fish.

The Middle Grounds has a few big blues left. Chummers and trollers are also trying Point No Point and the mouth of the Potomac for rockfish.

| Issue 45 |

Volume VII Number 45
November 11-17, 1999
New Bay Times

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