Sporting Life

“Montauk Mike’ ties a doodlebug rig. Photo: Sensible Angler/YouTube.

Doodlebuggin’ into July 

By Dennis Doyle 

The special baitfishing rod setups for my chumming expeditions were easy to keep track of over the last few weeks especially since the two rigs I was mostly interested in were producing all the fish. Plus, the rockfish themselves were also remarkable, so far all at least 25 inches and fat till bursting, though I knew the waters held plenty of smaller fish. 

Full disclosure demands that I’m certainly aware that only four fishing trips hardly makes for a valid population to base any analytical study. However, in my own defense an initial 100 percent success rate with the targeted setups makes for an overwhelming temptation to share the early information. Trying out a different baitfishing setup for stripers when chumming and chunking ended up with some striking results and in more ways than one. 

Doodlebugs are a terminal tackle setup commonly used by surf anglers along the coasts but are rarely seen up in the Tidewater. It’s composed of a monofilament high-lo rig with small multi-colored floats attached to the leaders about four inches or so above the fish hook. They’re meant to lift baits off of the bottom, bouncing them in the current and thus away from any hungry crabs patrolling the surf lines. 

They’re rarely seen up in the Chesapeake, undoubtedly because a Bay blue crab would hardly be deterred by such an obvious ploy and probably would be more apt to be attracted to the morsel than hindered from eating it. Furthermore, placing an obvious, unnatural and manmade element close to a bait could well result in scaring off any fish considering it. 

Since I’m a confirmed contrarian, upon seeing a few of these rigs some time ago in the store I work at part time, I immediately began to wonder if some of those assumptions might possibly prove invalid. Perhaps, since the fishing pressure in the mid-Bay is characteristically frequent and relentless, just maybe it could have the opposite effect in our waters. 

Possibly the presence of all the stealth rigs in use by the chumming and baitfishing fleets featuring fluorocarbon leaders and snells and natural as possible fresh baits, maybe something different and out of place just might pique an otherwise wary fish’s curiosity. You know, the curiosity impulse that reputedly killed the cat. 

So far that seems to be the case. Though I’m still fishing both the doodlebug and my old standby fluorocarbon, fish finder setups, the doodlebug setups have continued to outperform for rockfish and blue cats. This may well be an anomaly with a one fish per person limit and the fact that I really haven’t got out on the water as much as I’d like. However, it has definitely made my days recently much more interesting. 

Undoubtedly Lady Luck could be tampering with my results, getting ready to smack me with a numbers reversal or a stretch of mystifying skunks, but so far, it’s been smooth sailing and some high-quality fish. A friend also warned me about the risk of publishing my possibly ephemeral experiences to the public. “Won’t you create expectations that quite possibly won’t be realized?” “Naw,” I replied. “Not a chance. No one believes fishermen’s tales on the Tidewater, especially if they’re true.” 


The summertime rockfish bite is developing nicely but is also frustrating. It’s still well to the north of the bridge with the stripers feeding voraciously for an hour or so then turning off the rest of the tide. And there’s not a lot of consistency to the timing. Sometimes it’s an hour at the beginning of the tidal change, sometimes near the end, though there has remained a consistent but short dawn bite as well. Trolling is finding better sized fish, generally because of the larger lures and jigging anglers working seven inch and larger tails are getting similar results. Perch have moved in and there are some nice sized fish of that species available, 10 inchers are not uncommon and the spot are second- and third-year fish, something that’s a bit frustrating for live liners but welcome for anglers favoring their flavors. Croaker are mostly still missing but crabs are running fairly well. It’s a typical summer so far.