Anglers Chesapeake Fishing Report 05/24/2016
Well boys and girls it’s been an outstanding week of fishing barring the downright cold temperatures we have had thus far in the month of May. The good news about relatively cold water around 60-degree water temperatures is stripers absolutely love it and though most of the big fish have moved south pushing out of the bay, we are still finding fish upwards of 35 to 36 inches. Typically, this time of year, schools of 18-24” stripers make their way out of the rivers hanging on oyster ledges where water depth will drop relatively quickly as it’s a prime ambush spot for bait. Along with that are mayworm hatches happening in certain parts of the bay which can ultimately turn the bite off very quick but regardless fishing overall has been very good. 35-40’ of water trolling umbrellas with double drop tsunamis and hard head custom parachutes in 1-1.5 ounces has been extremely productive while the tide has been rolling particular around the mouths of these rivers (Severn, South, West, Chester, Eastern Bay, etc.) using literally no more than 5 or 6 deck rods meaning you do not have to put out 25 rods like you would during trophy season and baits are relatively small running 6” shads particularly in white or bunker colors as water is still extremely clear for this late in the year. Now having said that you want most of those baits down deep so use anywhere from 8-16 ounces of inline lead to get down to the bottom part of the water column where most of these fish are hanging and get after it. We are experiencing for the most part a not so common spring with reports of breaking fish up and down the bay from Hackett’s to 83A already which due to water temps is not super uncommon, as many believe cold water “charges” these fish up and it seems to hold some level of truth.
On the light tackle side of things, we are looking for the most part the same features as we would look for trolling as far as a good ledge (35-40’) and a pile of bait which would indicate hungry stripers in the area though. Just be careful and chase the grade. For whatever reason lots of these schools of fish have been very size dependent meaning if you catch one fish that’s 18” long, chances are most are going to be right about the same size. So if you can make a drift and get down tide of the birds and small fish and work some heavier jig heads up to ¾ ounce down deep odds are you will probably find a better grade of fish and anglers have been steadily catching fish almost up to 40” regularly using 5 and 7” bass assassins and bass candy delights as well as even throwing top water spooks when they are high up in the water column. Traditionally, fishing structure this time of year is extremely productive as in bridges and reefs and sunken boats and such however most reports we have received over the last week have been catching plenty of stripers and having a blast, however finding a decent grade of fish has been relatively hard to come by so in all honesty I’d say take your medium action jigging sticks, some bass assassins and 20 pound fluorocarbon, go look for a good ledge around the mouth of a bay or river in 35-40’ and go at it. If fish are breaking, go chase around the grade of fish until you find some big pigs and tear ‘em up. The one thing I want to emphasize this week is the simplest fact most people forget. Fish have tails, meaning they move! So don’t expect to find them where you caught them the day before. Don’t expect them to eat exactly what you threw at them the day before. And don’t assume there isn’t a striper in any less than 35’ of water because odds are they cover a lot more ground in one day than we think they do and don’t expect any one person to have all the answers for you. If that’s what you want out of a fishing report you should probably just call a charter and book a half day trip. Otherwise, look for the pattern around the mouths of the rivers, capitalize on breaking fish when given the opportunity, and look for bait on those ledges because 9 times out of 10 that is where you can almost always find a bite during the month of May.
As far as a chum bite goes, it has been productive no doubt but it has been spotty. The all famous Hackett’s point which seems to harbor dozens of boats on any given day can be good and is still holding plenty of fish regardless of the amount of pressure that has been put around the ol’ green can. Up north a ways to Dolly’s Lump and Podickory across to Love point is still a good a spot as any to set up shop on a chum slick. Though a lot of undersize fish are being caught there are plenty of fish up to 33-34” being caught chunking and chumming alewives on a fish finder rig and 6/0 circle hooks. Again, it is not mandated you have to use circle hooks but it definitely decreases mortality rates as not half as many undersize fish get gut hooked which for the future of our sport we should ALL be conscious of that. Back to the same pattern, those mouths of the rivers is where a lot of bait is holding and if you find the bait (alewives, menhaden, bunker, whatever you choose to call them) you will eventually find a school of summertime stripers so find the ledge, set up shop, chunk some alewives, crack a beer, and wait for the tide to get right. A lot of people don’t have as much patience for chumming due to the fact you are strictly looking for a hunger bite, not a reaction bite, and certainly not a territorial bite. Generally, it seems an hour into the tide or the last hour of the tide regardless of ebbing or flooding seems to be concurrent with most of the action so if you get out there and the tide is acting a little slow or raging fast just give it some time, kick back, get a tan, and wait for some fish to come knocking on the door.
Moving along to the all famous best eating fish in the bay. WHITE PERCH FOLKS, WHITE PERCH! I promise you will not find a better eating fish in the bay if you are looking to be a part of the meat fleet and have a fish fry everyone can enjoy, start working the rivers and creeks around the Severn, South, and Magothy, bridges, docks, and definitely most definitely oyster beds. The best part about white perch fishing is although it’s not necessarily easy, it isn’t gut wrenchingly hard either. If you want to use bait, just grab a bag of night crawlers or bloodworms, maybe even a razor clam or soft crab and go hit some structure in 10-20’ of water on nothing more than a bottom rig and an ounce of weight. For those who want to have some fun on an ultralight with 4 and 6 pound test, you can take shad darts and run a mini spec-rig or leave single and tip with Berkley gulps 1” minnow or even use a spinner although I truly believe the water temperature is still a little cold to be throwing spinners exclusively. Surprisingly enough with water only in the low 60’s a lot of these fish are still up in the shallows which is music to angler’s ears. Lots of big black backs are being reported up in the shallows which can turn a bad day of fishing into some great fried perch nuggets and a good night.
On another note, the bigger black backs are showing up in enough numbers to fish and I’m not talking about perch. BIG black drum which are one of the harder species to target in the bay as we usually only get a small window to effectively fish for them. Look for them in the southern part of the bay around the chop tank and Nanticoke in about 16-25’ of water on hard bottom using big mano clams and peeler crabs or soft crabs or anything you would think these big trash cans would eat. The good news is when you find one you find all of them. The bad news is it’s hard to find ones that are hungry and even harder to stay on these fish meaning you pretty much have to drift and with the fleet that is normally fishing for them it’s not even remotely practical to try and anchor. As far as rigging goes use 50-80 pound fluorocarbon as a leader on a fishfinder rig or egg sinker rig with about an 8 or 9/0 octopus hook and have at it. You will need a rather heavy spinning rod as these fish range from 30-40 pounds on the smaller side all the way up to 90 pounds so be ready look for the trash cans (referring to your electronics for those who don’t get the lingo) on hard bottom and work it until you hook up.
In other news, catfish are still catfish and you can probably find catfish just about any time and place you would normally find them back in the rivers and creek so grab some alewives and clam snouts, a 6 pack of your favorite adult beverage, a lawn chair and a couple of rod tip bells and kick back, relax, and catch ol’ Mr. Kitty Kat. The only other bit of info I have this week is crabs are starting to pick up around Annapolis particularly in pots and traps as the water is still pretty cold which keeps most of them relatively dormant and lethargic but with the weather breaking this week by Wednesday, bait up the trotline and set it in the brine. It won’t be but a few more days until we get a temperature break in the water and it becomes wide open so good luck, god bless, and tight lines.