What a summer on the bay it has been. Plus sized stripers, quality bluefish, mackerel of the Spanish kind, jumbo white perch, and more cow nosed rays than you can shake a stick at. It’s been a phenomenal late summer bite and now that we are coming off of a full moon, I expect it’s only going to get better. The majority of quality stripers (aka overs) are still north of the bridge and at this point I don’t know when they are going to venture south. A lot of menhaden still remain there and as long as the food is still present, I don’t foresee them moving south any time soon. Love point, the dumping grounds, seven foot knoll, belvedere shoals, and podickory point have been good places to set up shop anywhere over 20-50’ of water depending on the day and there are definitely keeper fish south of the bridge from the mouth of eastern bay at the hill south to sharps island. Yes that is a broad spectrum but you have to realize these fish are not going to be cruising the same ledges and flats every day. My favorite saying is fish have tails, and they know how to use them. Some days you’ll find them in 25’ of water high up in the column, some days you’ll find them down on the bottom in 40’ of water but it’s all dependent on what you’re doing to where you go and what you can set up shop on. The majority of fisherman right now are either trolling, jigging, or live lining with a few guys still chumming.
Trolling wise we are cruising channel edges and working over mud flats with smaller tandems with 5 and 6” tsunamis as well as pulling hoses still with some umbrellas mixed in along the way. Most guys are using planer boards to help spread everything out but to be honest with you I think a 5 rod spoon rig set up with in line planers would be just as effective when working on schools of hard feeding stripers. As far as speed goes, all you have to do is try something until it works. Honest to god, the hardest part about summertime is finding the daily pattern that coincides with tides and moon phase and the rest is a cake walk. If you catch 4 keepers going almost four knots on a southeast troll clearly there is a developing pattern there so pick it up, figure it out and roll with it. Generally with tandems and umbrellas we cruise pretty constant around 3.5 but some days you’re going to have to slow the rig up and vice versa.
As far as a jig bite goes, the striper bite has been extremely well with plenty of breaking fish to be found north and south of the bridge. The key to finding the grade of fish is not getting comfortable catching 12” two year old stripers. If you get beneath the breakers and can’t pick up bigger ones and then back off down tide of the breakers and still catch nothing but “dinks” then something has to give at least if you’d like to catch fish of substantial size. Move along to the next school or start working edges, structure, reefs, you name it. One thing I’d like to emphasize is just because there is birds diving doesn’t mean there is big fish around and just because the water erupts like its boiling doesn’t mean there’s an old Hoss daddy around either. As far as a lure selection goes, 5” z-man’s, bass assassins, bkd’s, and basically any soft plastic are a recipe for success.
I will say the larger profile will definitely drop the quantity you catch but the grade will assuredly be much better. Most of what these fish are busting on is small silversides and bay anchovies and such which are quite small, some not even but a few inches so if you truly wanted to match the hatch I’d say grab yourself a couple of sting silvers or kastmasters and go at it, just be prepared to catch 10 dinks per 1 good fish. The shallows are also underrated during the month of august especially if we catch a high pressure system like earlier this week. Paddle tails and top water poppers can be just what you need to have fun in 2-6’ of water along shoreline and structure which is in my honest opinion one of the most fun ways to catch fish. I myself have been cruising around shoreline spots on the bay front catching fish on top water up to 25” which isn’t entirely common this early but a few degree temperature drop, a raise in oxygen and a few lost baitfish will take a striper up into these kinds of situations a lot more than people would think.
Moving onto the live lining, chumming squad it’s been productive. With spot, it’s been better than productive. A 5/0 circle hook and a few feet of fluorocarbon leader is all you need to make a day of live lining. Most of these guys are up around the mud flats around the mouth of the Chester on out to the LP buoy and further north to belvedere and seven foot knoll. Basically all you are looking for is a meter full of fish and a good anchor man. More times than not, no weight is needed but with a hard flood or ebb tide that can change when you have 4 or 5 guys trying to get spot down without getting tangled so some days a fish finder rig with a half-ounce or an ounce of weight is all you need to make the difference just to get down to the fish. Either that, or a smaller egg sinker just to get them down into the strike zone and into a hungry stripers mouth without tangling your buddies 10 ways to Sunday. Chum wise, it’s been good it’s just a very tide dependent bite where you are looking for the first and last hour of the tide as more times than not, that will be when these fish are just getting going from a slack tide and are cruising the bottom scavenging for what’s left of alewives.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about bluefish. This has been a particularly goofy year in regards to bluefish. They seemed to show up a little bit early and a hell of a grade at that but it seems as though there are just pockets of them and not much of a concentration of them. North of the bridge around love point we have been seeing plenty of them mixed among rockfish and some up to 26-27” which is as nice a grade of fish I’ve seen in the last 10 years. However, just south of the bridge from gum thickets to poplar island it has been relatively scarce as far as blues are concerned. Catching a few here and there in the mix of stripers is common but coming across a school of chomper blues has just not been a viable or reliable option until you get down south of sharps island and they are that far south for sure but just not in the numbers we’re used to seeing this time of year. Regardless, anything with a hook is usually good enough. Bluefish are very aggressive, almost to that of a piranha and have been jokingly called the piranha of the Chesapeake. Spoons, plugs, jerk baits, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, soft plastics and metal jigs are all good enough to fool a blue. Generally speaking, they are a fast swimmer so don’t be afraid to work that lure a lot quicker than what you’re used to catching stripers and work the same ledges and edges unless of course you see some breaking fish in which case they will likely be a few around as they can’t seem to get enough of a feeding frenzy.
Now onto one of my personal favorites. The Spanish mackerel. With water temps as high as they have been it’s no surprise to see that they have made their way all the way up to seven foot knoll and most areas in between. Now respectively, there are two common methods to catching Spanish mackerel both of which involve finding those small anchovies and silversides. One is trolling small drone and clark spoons at 6-8 knots with inline planers. The other involves ripping small spoons across the top part of the water column. Either way is plenty good enough to catch mackerel but if one thing is for sure you need to be working whatever lure you have fast. Chances are if you think you are going too fast, you are not ripping it fast enough. Trolling wise, we are essentially following bait around the main channel of the bay in anywhere from 30-60’ of water just depending upon where they happen to be that day. If no bait is present or it’s too rough to see pods of bait fish then I suggest working edges where it may drop from say 10’ of water down to 20 or 30 very quick or wherever you think a bait ambush could happen. Eastern bay, the wild grounds, tolly’s, hackett’s, even north past the LP has had a good bit of mackerel hanging out over the last week. The one thing about mackerel is they are a warm water fish so the hotter temp, the better. Once it dips below 80 it doesn’t usually take those fish too long to scoot on out of the bay and back south to where they flourish which in essence means, get them while we got them!
Moving things along to the bottom feeders of the bay. Spot have showed up I think about to the fullest extent we will see this year. The further south you go the more you are going to find on hard bottom anywhere from 8-12’ of water and you may just find some croakers as well. We’ve had a few reports showing up of hard heads lingering around the oyster and clam beds, although not of much size is surely a good sign to see. Maybe someday we can see 18” croakers again.
As far as white perch go, the creeks have been steady good over the last week and a half bringing up some big black backs up to 13 and a half inches as well as hard bottom and deep water structure like the bay bridge either on jigs and spinners or soft crab and bloodworms. Other than that, crabbing remains good across the board and catfish are still catfish as far as im concerned so with that I bid you adieu, good luck, stay safe, and most importantly, tight lines.