Howdy there boys and girls, it’s been another exciting week out here on the Chesapeake as our summer season moves right along. Trolling, live lining, jigging, chumming, top water, breakers, you name it, it’s been productive from the mouth of the Chop Tank all the way up to the north end of the Bay around Hart Miller Island. It seems as though the majority of our bigger fish still remain north from the bridge all the way up past Rock Hall. The trend remains familiar as weeks past in regards to working channel edges where bait would likely be in a position to be ambushed by hungry stripers as well as the mud flats of Belvedere on west to Podickory point and Baltimore Light. In regards to breaking fish we have still been seeing a few breaking fish here and there north of the bridge but predominantly most of the breaking fish have been south of Annapolis from the mouth of the South River on down to the mouth of the Choptank in anywhere from 15-25’ of water with small stripers and schooled blues pushing silversides up top.
As far as what we’re trolling the answer has been the same for the past month which is rock hall red surgical hose running planer boards and as many rods as you can fit out without a tangle. Now as far as running tandems and umbrellas yes they have been successful but not near as productive on the quality of fish we are still seeing come off the surgical hoses which are fish up to 40” which this late in the summer is almost unheard of. Most of the depths we have been fishing has remained pretty consistent running from 28-40’ with some variation depending on the day. The best thing I can tell you is pick up on the pattern. If you catch a fish running south to north in 30’ and you’re consistently marking then take note and keep running that same line until you run out of fish. The majority of the trolling bite has been a pick meaning it’s not wide open but when you figure it out, you can pull some really nice fish in the process.
As far as a live lining bite goes, it’s been great. Belvedere shoals, Podickory, the Bridge and the Sewer Pipe have all been good places to drop some live spot or perch or whatever you have in the live well. The key here is looking for a school of fish on your electronics and if you can anchor to stay on them then great but more times than not they are on the move. What is far less common but often times more successful is drift fishing with 3 or 4 rods to minimize the opportunity for a tangle. Use as little weight as possible if any and a good fluorocarbon leader along with a Gamakatsu 5/0 circle hook and you have the right recipe for success. Now fishing the bridge and structure with live bait can be a little trickier. You are not necessarily looking for schools of fish. Most often, big schools will not congregate around a piling but rather a few here and a few there so drift along the piling, pitch your bait in and try a few drifts on it before moving to the next one but I can assure you of one thing. If you do not catch a fish in the first five minutes on a piling do yourself a time saving favor and move. As many years as I have fished the bridge I can tell you, if conditions are right and you make 2 drifts on the same piling and do not catch or have a run then you will more than likely not catch no matter how many times because you cannot catch what is not there plain and simple.
Along with the live bait scene, chumming has remained productive barring you can deal with a few cow nosed rays along the way. Again this week, I will reiterate the point of using circle hooks. This time of year is when a lot of the smaller bait starts pushing out of the rivers with smaller stripers chasing in behind them which means a lot of undersize fish. Again and again I am seeing plenty of floating undersized fish around the chumming fleet and while there is always a mortality rate to some extent, there is no need to raise that rate. Circle hooks will ensure a lot less gut hooked fish and inevitably save you time, money, and a guilty conscious for tossing back dying fish just by the design of the hook. The other point I want to make is fishermen who catch their limit and continue to catch and “release” after the fact while using j-hooks and kill fish in the process. If you want to continue to catch, then invest in some jigs, pinch the barbs down and drift over the schools and minimize your impact on the bay, you’ll thank me in the long run. As far as what depth to chum, honestly a mud flat by a channel edge is your best bet on the first or last hour of the tide in anywhere from 20-35’. Though that is a broad spectrum use your electronics and run the edge until you pick up some good marks and anchors away.
As far as a jig bite goes, this is a great time of year to learn how to jig, particularly if you are south of the bridge where the quantity of fish outweighs quality by far. lots of breaking fish are around and although most are smaller 16-20” fish it is an absolute blast catching hand over fist on light tackle and with metal jigs it can be fairly easy to learn the technique. Half-ounce jig heads and Z-man plastics are definitely the way to go as the plastic far outweighs that of a BKD and a Bass Assassin just due to durability. More times than not a BKD may last 5 or 6 small fish and this past week I actually counted the number of fish on the same Z-man which equated to 37 fish including bluefish which is a big time saver and even more of a money saver. Now while most of these fish are on the smaller side of the equation, there are still keepers in the mix, and as far as pulling keepers out of the breakers this time of year it can be done primarily with a couple options. One is to work your lures a lot faster right on top of the water almost to look like a cedar plug bouncing through the water and usually bigger fish will track it and hammer it. We have done that time and time again to catch keeper fish. Another option is to throw full size smack-it’s as it is just a bigger presentation and smaller fish won’t be able to inhale the lure which also is a great option this time of year. Most people seem to think for some reason that big fish lay under the breakers and while that may be a true a handful of times, more times than not breakers are on the move meaning current is hard and if a big feeding striper was to lay under the school it would probably expend way more energy trying to pick off silversides and peanut bunker more so than the little fish. A lot of the times we have found that periodically down tide of the breakers usually in the top part of the water column as close as 20 feet from the breakers to 200 yards from the breakers is where those bigger fish will be which if you think about it makes absolutely perfect sense. The little guys crush up the bait and the stragglers that remain get pulled down tide right into the mouths of a 25” fish. Take that into account and I promise you will have a better grade of fish then the average joe. While on the subject of top water though, I will say the shallows have had a pretty steady bite with fish up to 25-26”. Paddle tails and jerk baits have been a prime lure as well as top water spooks and smack its later in the evening and early in the morning.
Talking about breakers, bluefish are definitely here although it seems definitely small pockets of them. Love point has had consistent bluefish up to 23-24” the past several weeks as well as the hook, sharps island, and number 1 around the west river. Guys are picking them off jigging amidst schools of breaking stripers and on channel edges on metal spoons and Z-mans, but the guys consistently catching piles of bluefish have been running in-line planers with drone spoons and Clark spoons running about 4-5 knots and a 6 rod spread which can be a pretty mobile idea especially when these fish move constantly it’s definitely a little bit easier to stay on them. And along with bluefish and extremely high water temperatures Spanish mackerel are showing up although not in huge numbers they are present and some pretty damn big ones at that. Reports of mackerel up to 27-28” have made their way into the shop and if that doesn’t get you excited I’m not sure what will. Fast trolling mackerel can be a good beer drinking activity and they are pretty good eating at that so ready the small spoons, crank the speed up, and crack a cold one August is upon us. And speaking of august, just throwing this out there for the crazy ones, this is the time of year red drum start to show up around the Chop Tank and they have started already. Primarily being caught on accident trolling spoons for bluefish, there is a chance of jigging up a big redfish on a 7-10”bkd or bust ‘em bait.
Breaking it down to perch, the water temps inside the creeks with the heat wave are way too high for productive perch jerking as most have moved into deeper water with harder current looking for a few degree drop so look out at Hackett’s, Dolly’s, the Bay Bridge, any oyster bed in 15-25’ of water. Bloodworms, razor clams, live minnows and peanut bunker are all good options for a big old black back as well as heavier metal jigs and spinners up along the jetties and bridge pilings. As far as crabbing goes it has been remaining steadily good along the creeks around Annapolis primarily using razor clams for quantity and quality while chicken necks have been yielding less crabs. In other news you guessed it, channel catfish everywhere. Use cut perch, cut alewife, hell maybe even an old shoe I bet it would work. But that’s all I have for you guys this week so good luck, god bless, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do and tight lines.
Capt. Avedon 😉