Well, it’s been an interesting month of May to say the least. From 3 solid weeks of rain and cold temperatures to sunny, low wind, and scorching temperatures as of lately and it has at least in my honest opinion got things back into the normal swing of things as far as developing a late spring pattern which is ledges. The meat fleet at Hackett’s is remaining to get solid numbers of fish regardless of the amount of pressure it’s been getting and anglers are still yielding limits on cut alewives with fish up to 32”. This is much of the same story across the board around the mouth of the Chester, Magothy, South, and West River. The thing about a chum bite is to truly be successful you need to be as up to date with the tide as possible unless you want to hang out for 6 hours waiting for the bite to turn on and I promise you it will, it’s just a waiting game and finding the grade of fish. Fishweather and other various tide apps are exceedingly helpful although not 100% accurate at least giving you an idea of when the bite may occur. It is also likely to be a fast bite usually within the first or last hour of a tide change so just be aware of that, change out washed out baits when you can, and keep that slick rolling.
As far as a troll bite goes, things have been hot and heavy around 35-50’ (Yes that is a broad variety of depth, remember fish have tails, THEY MOVE) of water around the mouths of rivers where steep ledges come together across the tide where fish can ambush schools of menhaden. The Hill, Hackett’s, Tolly’s, Baltimore Light, and the Triple buoys have been holding very good numbers of hungry fish and trollers are getting out early with the tide and coming back in with full coolers and nothing but smiles with a grade of fish up to the mid-30’s although 20-25” fish are more common place. Depending on how many guys you have on the boat, you may want to keep the boards at home and stick to boat rods running 6 to 8 rods with Tsunami umbrellas, Hard Head Custom Baits, and smaller bucktails on double drop umbrellas anywhere from 4 to 12 bars back depending on the ounce inline you are running. The main reason I say run less rods is because when you run 21 rods and have 8 guys on board, you don’t have the proper amount of people to reel in 21 rods when you go through a school of stripers and every rod is bent over which can reap havoc on equipment and your mind trust me. The most important thing to remember when trolling is to cover the water column, develop a pattern, and work that pattern until you have the fish you need so keep that in mind next time you have one rod on the boat that is catching all the fish. Yes, it may be dumb luck, but more likely than not those fish are at that depth and apt to hit that color combination, ounce, etc. etc. so take note, change it up, search for the grade, and keep at it until you reach your goal!
Now if you don’t want to sit around, kick back and drink Bud light while you wait for something to happen and actively fish until your arm is sore from big stripers then set the trolling gear and chumming rods aside for a day and grab your medium action spinning and bait casting rods. The jig bite has been absolutely phenomenal along with the trolling and chum bite thus far in 2016 ESPECIALLY this week. Who knows how long fishing will remain this good but while it is you best take advantage of it and grab a few ½ ounce jig heads and some of your favorite colored bass assassins and get technical out there. Although we have run into some breaking fish from north of the bridge at Podickory point south to Chesapeake beach, jigging is a much more technical art than most solely due to actually finding fish. Gps, fish finders, and charts will be your best friend when looking where to go. The best thing I can tell you to do is either fish structure which could be anything from the Bay Bridge to the Pipeline, to oyster beds along river mouths, to artificial reefs down around Eastern Bay OR, study your chart and find areas where bait can be ambushed during the flow of tides coming in and going out. Typically this time of year we are fishing in anywhere from 25-35’ of water however as of late the bite for myself has been shallower from 15-18’ with plenty of fish up to 38” all caught on 10 pound braid on a rod most would catch 2 pound largemouth with. THAT is fun on light tackle folks and at this pace are keeping up with the trollers and chummers if not doing far better in terms of quantity of fish and caught and definitely quality. As far as any tricks or tips I could share, I will say I along with several buddies have caved and started using Spike-It Garlic Dip for our soft plastics and honestly have noticed a big increase in finicky fish that would normally short strike us and that I do believe is purely scent based as it adds a little extra flavor to hang on to long enough to set the steel. Like I said, who knows how long this bite will last but get in on it while its hot, study your charts, think like a fish, and I promise you will have better success ratios and a lot more fun actually inducing a strike.
Onto the creeks around Annapolis and Kent Island, white perch are in thick folks. It seems to be an early year for them from what I can remember but that is beside the point. Grass beds are in full swing which is good to see and along with that is plenty of grass shrimp, bull minnows, and other solid protein sources for big black backs and you know what that means. Break out the ultralights and Perch Pounders and go to work. Most of these fish are not in super shallow yet but still 4-8’ is easy enough to find along structure, grass, oysters, jetties, dock houses, you name it. As clear as the water is, bright white and a silver blade has been a go to for many anglers over the past several days and has been producing but for those finicky fish, you already know what I’m going to say. Make a tandem dart rig with Berkley gulps and bounce structure or deeper holes in 6-10’ of water until you find the grade of fish you want to find. Now the nice thing about perch fishing is it’s not incredibly hard to catch them. Granted, there is definitely skill involved with wrangling big perch over 4-6” dinks we would use to throw at stripers but overall is a sport just about anybody can enjoy. If you aren’t comfortable throwing lures and jigging and such that is perfectly fine. Go sit down at the pier or dock with some bloodworms and razor clams or even especially soft crab on a bottom rig with size 6 hooks and have fun catching two at a time. If there’s one thing that is certain that many will agree with is that white perch are one of the best, if not the best eating fish in the bay so if the weathers rough, you can’t find stripers to catch, or you just want a downright good meal, take to the creeks and search out some docks and structural points that you think would suit and have at it because let’s face it. There isn’t much a whole lot better than catching perch in a creek on a hot summer day, there just isn’t.
As far as some oddball species go, the drum bite has been very good down south around the Chop Tank, Hoopers Island, Stone Rock, and all the usual hard bottom reef sites that drum typically call home during the latter weeks of May and first weeks of June. A good set of electronics and a dozen soft crabs over 20-25’ of water is a good recipe for success with drum but beware. They are often times hard to convince to eat even with the right set up and all. The best thing you can do is make a drift over hard bottom and try to maintain contact with the bottom all the while feeling for the smallest thud which would indicate a drum, count to three and come tight. Moving along to another oddball we haven’t heard much about is croakers. The good news is we are starting to hear reports of a few croakers showing up around the Severn. Although it is nothing big, mostly in the 9-12” range over 15-20’ of water, it could be a potential sign of some big croakers moving back up the bay which for my own personal accord I hope happens. Croakers are some of the hardest fighting fish pound for pound that roam the bay and can be easily caught on bottom rigs, bloodworms, and bait shrimp as well as small jigs when they are truly going through a feeding frenzy. Look for the hard bottom around Tolly’s and make a few drifts until you find a few because when you do get on top of that school all hell will break loose.
The good news is that crabbing is picking up from what was a pretty dull cold spring up here in Annapolis. Although there are many crabs around, traps and pots seem to be the way to go right now as they seem to be a little sluggish which is likely to change in the next few days if you want to get enough for a few crab cakes or a dozen or two for the next home Orioles game. Trot lining is not far away and I would be willing to put my top dollar on this weekend being the start of a crab filled summer so come get some razor clams, chicken necks, frozen alewives, and ready the holding pots and bushel baskets. Most seem to still be pretty deep which would indicate deeper ledges of 8-13’ but I would say bait the line up and give it a whirl. Lord knows we are seeing enough crabs scurrying across the bottom as we are perch fishing gin clear water in depths of no more than 5’ so give it hell!
In other news, yes you guessed it. Catfish are still catfish and I do believe you can still catch catfish wherever you think a catfish should be. Clam snouts, peelers, night crawlers, and fresh alewives are a sure recipe to ensure you find a fishy friend with whiskers. So on that note, good luck, god bless, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, and as always, tight lines.