Well guys and gals it’s been another exciting week here on the old Chesapeake Bay. With plenty of big stripers hanging around and some bluefish starting to show up its bound to be a July for the record books. The general theory of fish above the bridge from the Bay Bridge to seven-foot knoll is still holding true in regards to big stripers in the upper 30” range. Trolling, jigging, chumming, and live lining have all been plenty sufficient means to keeping a rod bent and fishermen busy. As far as a troll bite goes, tsunami tandems and 5 and 6” swim shads have all been a great way to hook fish however rock hall red hoses have been the key for a lot bigger fish. Most of the depth guys are covering is anywhere from 20’ on out to 40’ with few days yielding fish in the main channel over 60’ of water. As far as how to run, I’d say 2-3 knots and however many rods you want to run. We have generally been running both planer boards just to cover a wider area and plus the theory of more rods, more chances so keep that in mind for days when it seems like you can only pick at fish when the bite is not wide open. Baltimore light and Podickory have still been a great place to set up shop on suspended fish as well as Sandy Point and the Dumping Grounds on up to Love Point. The overall trend from watching these fish everyday seems to be that they are dissipating from up north and starting to move south again, which for all intents and purposes I would be thrilled just to avoid the raft up on the weekends. As far as a troll bite down south of the bridge it has been very sporadic but there are plenty of keepers to be found when the tide is right and they school on silversides and shiners at Hackett’s on south to Thomas Point in 20-35’ of water. The eastern side has been holding fish but a lot of small fish not even worth messing with trolling tackle.
Onto the chummers and live liners. The mouth of the Magothy between Podickory and Baltimore light has been very productive even with most of the crowd there yielding lots of good fish up to 35” on some days. The best thing I can tell you is to look at your chart and find a good mud flat in about 20-30’ of water and anchor up, drop some chum over and go at it. Again, I would like to reiterate for everybody out there please for the love of god and our fishery, please start using circle hooks. I have seen it and many of the reports we are hearing is a lot of undersize fish dead floating down the bay. Could this be leftovers from dolphins, sure. Could this be a red tide from an algae bloom killing fish, maybe. But regardless I’d like to see some regard and conservation train of thought on fishermen, J hooks really tear at a fish that has engulfed a piece of alewives on the bottom. And don’t think just because that fish has engulfed it that the hook wont rust out. The best thing to do if you can’t get your hands on some circle hooks is bring extra J hooks and if an undersized fish engulfs your bait, take the 30 cent hit on the hook, cut your leader as close to the hook as possible and put as little stress on that fish as possible. It will rust out and that fish has a lot better chance of surviving rather than if you rip their gills out to get your 30 cent Mustad 5/0 back. Getting back to the report here on the subject of live lining it has been very good barring you get either spot or white perch to throw down there. A 5/0 circle hook on a 3’ 20-pound fluorocarbon leader with no weight is the perfect recipe for a good day of live lining. The same areas chumming have been extremely well with live bait, the only difference is you are trying to find feeding fish as opposed to stripers scavenging the bottom at the last hour of the tide. So with that in mind, use your electronics and don’t anchor unless you are on top of a feeding school. Sometimes a drift is the best move for keeper striped bass when live lining, so get out there and make it happen!
As far as a light tackle jig bite, it has been exceptionally good here on the bay this summer. The bridge pilings as always continue to hold good numbers of stripers. The sewer pipe, Podickory, Love, Baltimore Light, Seven foot knoll have all been good places to throw some BKD’s and get on the light tackle level. When looking for feeding fish, generally you would want to be where the bait would be so look for edges, sharp drop-offs, plot chart locations that would be good during certain tides and trust your electronics. One of the biggest mistakes I see anglers making is anchoring up and jigging. Though this can be successful when the bite is wide open and you have a school of fish underneath of you, it’s generally not near as productive as drifting. One prolonged 30-minute drift is going to tell you a lot about the area and where concentrations of stripers are so don’t be afraid to cut the motor and drift into the fish and when you find them stacked and feeding, then you can run back on top of them and go wild. Typical depths have been anywhere from 15-30’ most days with some bait getting pushed out into the shipping channel and fish have been breaking over 40-50’ of water. ½ ounce jig heads and 5” soft plastics in your favorite colors are all that is needed to be successful. Skirts, plastic dip, underspins, and other odds and ends can always give you an edge but I’ll leave that to you on how technical you want to get.
Bringing things into the shallows, we have had a very good top water bite which while it hasn’t been lasting super long in the morning and evening can still be a lot of fun in the shallows around Annapolis and Kent Island in 2-4’ of water. One key move which we have been seeing making a huge difference is throwing swim baits and paddle tails when the top water bite isn’t on and fish are still in the shallows. ¼ to ½ ounce heads and a 5” paddle tail ripped across the top of the grass and rocky bottom has been a game changer for pulling fish out the shallows. Now a lot of guys aren’t familiar with fishing the shallows and all that really comes into play is figuring out how shallow your boat can get, which way you will drift, and ultimately being sneaky on these fish because vibration from the motor can push fish right out of a jetty and/or turn them off completely. So take your time drifting in, cut the motor, and let the drift take you to where you need to be and you will see a difference in results I can promise you that. While on the subject of light tackle fishing as far as breaking fish goes, which are very prevalent this time of year as stripers and bluefish will often push bait up to the surface and blitz, I just wanted to point out some etiquette that will help you in the long run. Number one, don’t run through the middle of breaking fish especially when other anglers are fishing for obvious reasons and number 2 is don’t always assume that big fish are down beneath them because often times they aren’t. very often we’ve experienced bigger fish up higher in the water column and generally down tide from the school which if you think about it who wouldn’t want all the young ones to go and do the work for you. All those fish have to do is point into the tide and take leftovers from the blitz so don’t be sad when you drift off of the school of breakers, if anything get ready for some bigger fish.
Coming into July is always the time of bluefish. Snappers, chompers, gators, whatever you people want to call them. They have been making their way up the bay and down around the mouth of the chop tank to poplar island we have been getting many reports of breaking blues up to 23” stacked all along the eastern edge of the channel. Trolling metal spoons and jigging metal sting silvers has always been a favorite way to catch these fish. Now, really quick bluefish do have teeth but that doesn’t mean you need wire. If you do use wire you will eliminate all possible hope of a multi species day so just break out the mono leader I’d say somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40 pound and throw spoons, sting silvers, z-man plastics and so forth. The faster and more erratic you can make that lure appear the more often you will get bit. Though the majority of this bite has been south and in eastern bay we are starting to see a few show up here and there around Annapolis primarily by guys who are trolling spoons so get ready it will not be too much longer and I would be willing to bet we are going to have one of the best bluefish catching summers we’ve had in a good long while.
Breaking it down in the ways of the bottom fish like croaker and spot we finally have good news. Yes, you guessed it. The infamous Norfolk spot has started to show up along the eastern edge of the channel from Hoopers Island all the way up to Eastern Bay primarily on hard bottom in 10-16’ of water. Use your bottom rigs and bloodworms and go nuts. There hasn’t been a whole lot in the way of catching huge numbers but add some perch to the mix in the live well and a couple hours of bottom bouncing you should be able to get enough spot to live line or bring home and make the old spot sandwich. As far as croakers go, we are starting to see more and more every day but it has still been sporadic with many small barely legal fish. The further south you go, the better it tends to get. Down around Solomon’s and the mouth of the Patuxent we are hearing about some better classes of croaker up to 14” but nothing like it used to be.
As far as the old perch goes, it has been one of the best summers we have seen in years around Annapolis. The Severn, the Magothy, South, Chester, Miles, Choptank, hell all of it has been fantastic up in the shallows. 3-6’ of water on structure with spinners has been a recipe for a lot of fun on ultralights so break out the 4 and 6-pound test outfits and go at it. Many claim white perch are the best eating fish in the bay and there is a plenty. More and more citations have rolled through the shop here as of lately up to 14” which is an absolute slab of a white perch. With that in mind, get down to the dock with a 6 pack and a few of Jamie’s Halloween perch pounders and go to town.
That’s about all I got for you guys this week. Rays are still everywhere so break out the harpoons and homemade spears and have fun, I don’t think they are leaving anytime soon. In regards to crabbing it has been excellent around Annapolis in all main rivers on south to the Choptank with a lot better success rates on razor clams as opposed to chicken necks so get the john boat and trotline ready for a crab feast. In other news, you guessed it. Catfish are still catfish and are just about everywhere a catfish should be so grab yourself some chicken livers and have a ball. In the meantime, and as usual, stay safe and tight lines, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do and have fun.