September is a transition month. As the bay waters cool the fish move to their Fall feeding areas looking for a bigger bite to fatten up before Winter. Often times these areas will be shallow structure like Rip-Rap shorelines, rocky points, hard bottom flats, black wood pilings and fixed navigation markers. This year, just after Labor Day, the Upper Bay temperatures had dropped almost 10 degrees and the fish had started their Fall transition. Hurricane Harvey was moving off the coast when Dan Kilroy and I caught a better grade of fish on some upper bay lumps while jigging 5″ Bust’em Baits plastics. Wind, waves and sideways rain make for perfect conditions for Striper catching! A good jig bite on bigger fish gives me “Crazy Eyes”…
Then we got three weeks of warmer than normal weather which brought the water temps back up considerably. This has slowed the shallow water transition and during the early part of the month keeper size fish were hard to come by. They were no longer under the breaking fish in the rivers and not yet on their shallow water spots. This “in between” period was frustrating to most upper bay anglers. It was not uncommon to catch over a hundred Stripers with just one or two being keeper size. During the first week of September, I fished with Greg Passwaters in the Worton Point area catching a good number of fish but no keepers. I stopped at one of my shoreline spots on the way home and caught this 23″ Striper off of a shallow water structure during the peak current flow. These fish may only feed heavily for an hour or two during any tide cycle. Knowing when to go where is important to finding the fall action.
The following week I fished several times with less than desired results. Warm weather was hampering the transition; finding better fish was frustrating at times. On a trip with Steve Leathery launching at the Kent Narrows and fishing the Lower Chester River we found some very nice Bluefish while casting X-Raps and burning them back to the boat. They were moving fast! I caught these two on back to back casts, my hands were shaking and the excitement had my heart beating out of my chest! As the sweat dripped into my eyes I sat down to compose myself. When I stood up the fish were gone! Seconds matter in the heat of the bite!
The following week I fished the CCA RED/TROUT TOURNAMENT in Crisfield, MD with Dan Kilroy and Adam Smith. These two guys are both “no nonsense, all in, dedicated fishermen”. I felt like the weak link in the chain and that doesn’t happen often! We pre- fished on Friday and Dan caught a beautiful 27″ Redfish which was promptly released.
Friday’s fair weather gave way to Saturday’s blustery conditions. We saw a small window of opportunity to make the run across open water back to the Redfish spot. We arrived at first light. On the first drift Adam had a Redfish blow up on his topwater lure. Dan and I hooked up almost simultaneously! My fish straightened the hook on my homemade fly during a blistering run. I lay down my rod and picked up the net to land Dan’s fish while Adam started the motor and moved the boat away from the dangerous shoals. Awesome teamwork!
Almost immediately the conditions deteriorated with the wind howling at 30 mph and waves building against the incoming tide. The waves swelled to 3, 4 and 5 foot heights. We made the long run back to the shelter of the marshes sometimes as slow as 10 mph busting the waves and sending salt spray in every direction. The rest of the day was spent looking for Rockfish and Speckled Trout. Dan’s 25″ Redfish stood as the only Redfish entered and won that category of the tournament! This beautiful fish was released as the format of this tourney is catch, photo and release. No need to kill the fish to enter it. I like that format!
The next day I healed up from three intense days of fishing. The following day Ange Harclerode and I were back on the Chester catching keeper Rockfish! Great to go, as good to be home!
Better sized fish were still a challenge to find. I fished 5 different upper bay rivers in the next 10 days with similar results in each one. We found good numbers of smaller Rockfish with a few mid-twenties sized fish in the mix. Periods of low light proved to produce the best catching. One evening fishing with Micheal Durant the wind and tide together were too strong to drift and jig. So I chose to light tackle troll X-Raps and Drone Spoons across the pressure side of some upper bay structure. Every pass one or more rods would be hit and several times all three rods would go down at once. This was fast catching on bigger fish, like this 26″ upper bay Rockfish! Look for bigger fish to be very near shallow water hard structures.
The next morning I fished sunrise in an Eastern Shore creek with my son Christopher Brown. We had a steady topwater bite until the sun got too bright. There were some nice fish in the mix…we kept these two for the table.
Each trip has been a little better than the last one and my last trip was very good! I fished with two experienced anglers, Captain Tony Moreira of MoreFins Light Tackle Charters and Ron Buffington on Ron’s 21 ft. Sea Hunt center console. We launched at the Narrows and ran north sharing the guide duties between the three of us. There is a bunch of knowledge rolling around the heads of all three of us. We put that together to make a fine day of catching. We had keeper fish from as shallow as 2′ of water to as deep as 30 feet. Shallow structure provided a couple keeper sized fish but our best fish came from the mainstem of the upper bay below and down current of the breaking fish on the surface. These fish were hugging the bottom and our 3/4 and 1 oz. jigs found plenty of fish willing to bite. Finally, a consistent jig bite the way it’s supposed to be in the Fall; little ones on the top, big ‘uns on the bottom!
Capt. Tony Moreira with a good one…
Ron Buffington of Jamie Lynn Sport Fishing with another fat fall Striper…
After going almost 3 hours without a fish during the morning we had several doubles throughout the afternoon bite. It was a fun day with seasoned anglers to share the load of finding fish.
If each trip keeps getting better than the last one then my next trip should be fantastic! With all the bait that is now in the rivers and cooling water temperatures, the stage is set for some tremendous Fall fishing!
Stop in at Sarge’s Bait and Tackle to get the latest info and pick up the right gear to catch these fish. I hope to see you on the water or in the shop. Let’s go fishing!