Sub-freezing temperatures and lots of winter wind guarantee that you won’t find me fishing Bay waters the rest of this month, at least not in my meager skiff. The dismal weather appears to have sealed my angling fate for the remainder of the season, but I have memories to keep me warm over the winter.
Fish Are Biting
Big winter stripers are here, fresh from the ocean. Boats braving the wind and temperatures on the Bay and dragging big baits deep are landing fish over 40 inches with increasing regularity. Rockfish season ends December 15.
Perch are schooled big and taking bloodworms fished patiently on the bottom or hitting smaller metal jigs worked deep. Wintertime anglers should break out their Mepps spinners and small Rapalas as pickerel fishing in the upper tributaries will be getting hotter as the weather gets colder. Rumors of good crappie fishing are starting up.
Details at: www.dnr.state.md.us/huntersguide/pdfs/Hunting_Seasons_Calendar.pdf
Whitetail and sika deer, firearms, thru Dec. 11
Autumn 2010 was an altogether pleasant experience on the Chesapeake with consistent action on the Western side. The shallow-water bite produced rockfish regularly for me in the 20- to 24-inch range from the shoreline north of the Magothy down to Tolley Point all the way through November.
This fall, following last year’s trend, I found the fish more interested in subsurface baits than lures that swam on top. Nice stripers could be tempted with poppers from time to time, but the year-class rockfish that dominated fall’s skinny-water bite preferred crank baits, soft plastics such as the Bass Assassin series and Strike King’s Red Eye Shad.
Chartreuse, the brighter the better, was generally the preferred hue, again following a trend that began last season, though a Red Eye Shad in black over gold seemed to draw the most strikes in early dawn and again toward dark.
Friends who haunted the Eastern Shore side keyed on the flats around Poplar Island and south, frequently boating double-digit numbers of stripers in the afternoons into the evening with many in the mid-30-inch range.
Top-water plugs were the king of action there, with the best still being the Stillwater Smack-It series — followed by Saltwater Chug Bugs and, for the first time, the new Bomber Badonk-A-Donk series. Color didn’t seem to be a critical factor with the poppers, though a range of sizes seemed to help when the fish got finicky.
Summertime striper fishing was as good as it’s ever been on the Chesapeake, with a live-lining bite that started in May (as soon as the first Norfolk spot arrived) and seemed like it would never quit. The only problem was finding the right-sized bait. Rockfish wanted nothing but small spot right from the beginning, and in the early months small spot were difficult to find.
Dropping a frisky five-incher close to a Bay Bridge piling was as close to a sure thing as you could get thru September and into October. Boats frequently limited out in under an hour when the tide was moving right — usually the first two hours or last two hours of either phase.
Tablewise, this summer my family and I had more superb perch fries than we’ve had in years, with the white perch bite as good as it’s ever been. These delicious fish moved into the shallows in early summer and, though they moved around, they never left the skinny water.
Rip-rapped shorelines and the areas around rock jetties produced bumper crops of good-sized fish almost everywhere. I broke 12 inches on a number of occasions, with lots of fish over 10 inches.
The preeminent lure for this frisky Bay resident was once again the one-sixth-ounce Super Rooster Tail in Clown Coach Dog pattern. When the water was dingy, the same lure in chartreuse was effective. For a change of pace (and often some singularly larger perch) I used a one-eighth-ounce Bill Lewis Tiny-Trap in blue and chrome or the Tennessee shad color.
Early in May, Chesapeake Bay blue crabs became active. The season began outstanding and got better as the summer wore on. By June many crabbers, myself included, were getting bushel limits within an hour. I’ve never done better than that.
The only hiccup in the crab catching came in mid-August, when hordes of tiny crabs, including the most females I’ve ever seen, arrived in the mid Bay and swarmed trotline baits to such an extent that it drove away the larger Jimmies. That’s truly a wonderful problem if you’re thinking of next year’s prospects.
Back in early springtime, the 2010 rockfish trophy season, which started in April, was excellent for anglers trolling big baits from big boats. General weather conditions, however, proved unkind to smaller boats. Persistent fresh winds in early spring kept watercraft under 23 feet (which definitely included me) generally confined to port until later in May.
The very earliest spring fishing, the yellow perch run, was fantastic in 2010 and the direct result of recent, and commendable, Department of Natural Resources actions restricting commercial over-harvest. Starting in late February and continuing into April, when the white perch run took over, I had the best year ever on these gorgeous fish.
This is the only fish on the Chesapeake capable of rivaling the white perch for the title of best frying fish on the Bay. Many I caught measured over 12 inches.
The most auspicious news of all, of course, is that the 2011 yellow perch run could start up in just about 60 days. I can hardly wait.