Perseverance Pays

The sun was getting low in an overcast sky, night was rapidly falling — and still there were no fish. Conditions were perfect off the shallow-water point, the tide was up, there was good current, a chilly wind was lying down nicely — and only one other boat was present. But no fish. 

Fish Are Biting

Better weather and cooler water temperatures have jumped the fall bite into the red zone. Nice rockfish are schooling at the mouths of all of the major tributaries and are susceptible to chumming and fishing cut bait deep, usually in 30 to 40 feet of water. Live-lining is still working as well and will as long as the spot stay around, which won’t be much longer. The early-morning and late-evening shallow-water surface bite is on fire everywhere in the Bay with stripers of five and six pounds taking poppers, chuggers, shallow running crank baits and Bass Assassins.

Nice perch are well schooled and taking bloodworms over shell bottom in 10 to 20 feet, while some are continuing to hang in the shallows and smacking spinner baits, shad darts, small spoons and crank baits. There are still some croaker to be had, and the crabs are running hot and heavy. Get in on the action while you can.


In Season

Details at:

Now Open

Whitetail and sika deer, archery thru Oct. 20
Rail bird thru Nov. 9
Light geese thru Nov. 26
Ruffed grouse thru Jan. 31
Squirrel thru Feb.

About to Open

Ducks: Oct. 16-23
Whitetail and sika deer, bow and muzzleloader: Oct. 25-30
Black bear (permit required): Oct. 25-30
Wild turkey: Oct. 30-Nov. 6

I had been anchored and working the long rip with two different top-water baits, a gold Smack-It Jr. and a black Chug Bug. I was alternating those with an underwater bait, a black-over-gold Red Eye Shad, a variation on the Rat-L-Trap. The other boat was an old Mako with three boisterous teens on board. They were drifting live spot and perch from their position not far from mine.

That’s how I was sure there were no fish. Sometimes, when you’re working artificial baits, the fish just aren’t fooled. Something in your presentation or the lures you’ve chosen doesn’t ring true to the critters, though they are there and eating. That’s a plug-angler’s worst nightmare.

But with the raucous Mako crew swimming small live baitfish far back and into the sweet spot, that possibility was pretty much eliminated. If there were stripers there, they would have eaten the live-lined bait. A rockfish just can’t refuse a tasty Norfolk spot.

As light faded, the wind freshened and the temperatures began to drop. Giving myself 10 more casts, I reluctantly decided to call it a night. 

The Fish Came

On about the fifth cast, my plug disappeared in a massive boil behind the boat. My rod bent down, line screamed out of the reel and in the dim twilight I saw the fish head toward the Mako. As it neared the boat, the striper made a leaping summersault clear out of the water. 

The Mako’s crew fell suddenly silent. The fish turned and made another thrashing leap back out in the center of the rip, putting on an extended and very visible surface battle. I definitely did not want to lose that rascal. It could be the only fish of the night, and I really didn’t want the audience in the other boat to witness my failure.

Luck was with me, and I netted and iced the five-pound striper. I threw out again and was immediately rewarded by another smashing strike and a second aerial display. But this bugger threw my lure on the second leap. There were a few murmurs from the Mako. But when I hooked up again right away, the murmurs subsided.

I netted and eased this rockfish, a twin of the first, back over the side feeling there were bigger fish out there. I resumed casting my surface plug, chugging it through the growing waves. But there were no further takers.

Switching to the Red Eye Shad, which I could throw much farther than the surface lures, I searched over a wider area to see if the pod of fish had moved. They had, and I found them within a short time. There were definitely bigger fish in the group.

I managed five more nice stripers, including a lovely six-pounder that filled out my limit, before deciding to call it a night. The waves had become uncomfortable and my teeth were chattering as I secured my rods and tended to the anchor.

Looking over I noted that the Mako had slipped away some time ago. Its lights were not even visible in the distance out across the choppy night waters.