My last few trips have been very rewarding! We are blessed to have a bunch of Rockfish in the Middle Bay now. I have watched the Stripers tend to move North in the bay as Summer has progressed. Last week there was a good push of Stripers showing in the Sassafras and Susquehanna Flats area. These fish generally are 20″ or less. Larger Stripers can be found in excellent numbers from Poole’s Island down to the Bay bridge on both sides of the bay. Chunkers, trollers and live liners are all catching fish but the absolute best way to catch them is “Snap-Jigging”. This has proved true from the Sassafras down to Thomas Point Light area. There are large patches of bad water in the bay now. These areas are reddish brown looking and have no life in them, I suspect this to be some type of Algae bloom. Avoid these dark colored waters to catch more fish.
Last Wednesday, I took my friend and rod builder Gary Gicker fishing in the mid bay area. We launched at Mattapeake and ran south finding fish on both sides of the bay. We fished slicks, edges, and breaking fish under birds. When breakers were encountered the better fish were caught below and down current from the breaking fish and diving birds. Do not run right thru the middle of breaking fish as you may very well kill the bite. Turn your motor off and stay on the edges. Watch your fish finder for the bigger fish below the surface commotion. Even as the fast moving breaking fish move off the larger fish will still be in the area… stay put or move only a few hundred yards to get back on the fish. Good electronics are important for this type of fishing. Often feeding fish will create an oil slick on the surface. These will look like “Shiny” spots on the surface of the water. Try to cast beyond the slick and bring your lure thru the area. Even though we caught fish in 30′ of water most of the fish were suspended at about 15’… even in 80′ of water the fish were suspended at 15’… this shows a tendency to move shallower. Maybe there is bad water below that depth but for whatever reason the shallow water bite is improving. Below are Gary Gicker and Jim Eastepp with their limit of Stripers caught jigging… We probably caught nearly a hundred fish each in about 5 hours! Good Times!
A few days later I was invited to fish with Rick Long on his 20′ Pacific Bay skiff. I have admired this boat for years and I was pleased with how well it fished the open bay. It was a very stable platform to fish out of and the electric trolling motor gave excellent boat control for jigging structure. We had a great day catching all the White Perch we wanted and found some very nice Stripers feeding in 6′ of water. Love this boat!
Rick and I have shared information on the internet for a couple years but had never met. I consider him a Perch Jerker of the highest standing! It turns out he is a special kind of sick, just like me. That is… he gets more excited over a 14″ White Perch than he does over a 20 lb.Striper! We did not see any 14″ fish that day but many over 12 and several over 13″ were returned as we were pre-fishing a tournament. We caught perch as shallow as 6′ and as deep as 22′. The best perch were in 4 to 6 ft. of water with rocks or hard structure near by. Live bottom areas produced a bunch of smaller fish. We used small safety pin type spinners and 3″ plastics for a horizontal presentation and our Mac-Whacker rigs for a vertical presentation. The Perch liked both techniques. I ended up keeping 50 white perch between 10 and 12 inches and we released three times that many. After working on the Perch we turned our thoughts to Stripers and caught them in the shallow water also.
The Rockfish we found in the shallow water were lit up and full of energy! They were slamming the jigs with wild abandon. The clear water made for very visual fishing. Several times I watched fish come up and take the jig not 10 feet away. More than once a 20″ fish would have a larger one with it at the boat. We did catch one of these by dropping a jig down near the hooked fish. Rockfish were cartwheeling across the top of the water when they felt the sting of the jig! They could not dive down so they ran out and away at great speed. I even caught a pair of baby Flounder. This kind of fishing must be the fountain of youth because it had “two old guys laughing like little kids”.
Just a few days later Ange Harclerode and I made the late day decision to fish an Eastern Shore creek at sunset. We arrived at the launch just about the same time as a gusty storm cell. When fishing out of a 14′ tin boat you have to adjust to the conditions. We waited for the weather to pass. This delay cost us the most productive part of the tide. After launching we fished some spots for White Perch with good success waiting for the bay to lay down a little bit. The first opportunity I saw to bust the inlet a run into the main bay I took it. I quartered the waves or ran the troughs to ease our way out to the structure. It
took a long time to get there and salt spray was flying thru the air.
It was worth the wait! We arrived at the near shore structure to find a bumpy 2′ chop with larger waves mixed in. Standing up was not an option and we were getting tossed around pretty good. The boat was drifting almost 3 miles an hour in a wind against tide scenario that made boat control a nightmare. Every drift as we passed thru the sweet spot we caught fish I had a couple shorts and then Ange stuck a nice one! After that we retreated back to the calmer waters of the creek.
It was a fun evening and a productive scouting trip to one of our favorite fall fishing spots. The stage is set to have an excellent fall season, lots of bait in the rivers and Rock-fish starting to set up in their fall places. Think shallow for the good late summer bite!
Tidewater fishing is really good now. I hope to see you on the water or in the shop!