Howdy guys and gals! Along comes another fantastic week of fishing here in the Chesapeake. The striper bite is still red hot trolling, jigging, and chumming primarily north of the bridge but also things are picking up south of the bridge. As far as a trolling bite goes, small buck tail tandems and surgical hoses have been the way to go for sure picking up fish up to 36” along the mud flats these schools of fish are congregating on. Most people trolling are still running planer boards as the obvious comes into play (bigger spread, bigger opportunity) in 20-50’ of water. I would tell you, you could probably catch a limit of fish on nothing but deck rods but if you have the rods to spare don’t be lazy, drop the boards and run them. A lot of the bigger fish we have been seeing have come off of the boards 4-8 bars back depending on the amount of inline weight we are running and that changes daily depending on the amount of boat traffic out there. Stealth is a crucial part of catching bigger fish which is hard to do when trolling so the further you can get lines away from the boat and give the most natural presentation possible the better in most instances. There is always going to be the anomaly bite like we experienced earlier this week where every fish came off the inside rods but it is a rarity. North of the bridge has still been good from the Dumping Grounds all the way up the Eastern ledge past the Trip Buoys so take a look on your fish finder and poke around until you find the grade of fish. Often times during the course of July we get bombarded with schools of 16-18” fish so to get around that is knowing when to leave the school. Try a couple different angles on them and if that doesn’t work move on up or down until you get on the grade of fish you are looking for. As far as south of the bridge goes, Hackett’s, Tolly’s, and Thomas Point have all been holding fish while not many in huge numbers they are still being caught along edges where bait is present and some nice fish too up to 30”. The one thing I will say is if you are running umbrellas do yourself a favor and check baits every 45 minutes if you are not catching. Bluefish are showing up and there is no worse feeling then trolling around for 6 hours and not catching a damn thing only to realize all your tails have been crushed by the yellow eyed devil so if you find you are running into many bluefish, switch to hoses completely or even start trolling metal drones and tony Acetta’s. some nice fish have been reported being caught this week on spoons and usually if I hear of one I don’t think much of it but several reliable sources have come forth about overs on spoons so don’t leave them out of the question. Just grab yourself a few planers and ball bearing swivels and make it happen.
As far as a jig bite goes it has been hot hot hot! North of the bridge in the same areas as well as south of the bridge along the eastern edge from brickhouse to Gum Thickets have been holding good keepers barring good tide movement and all. Typically this time of year is when most of the bait turnover brings glass minnows and silversides and small peanut bunker so we typically are throwing 1 to 2 ounce sting silvers and feathered metal jigs which is a great way to catch fish, just not necessarily the kind of fish you can keep. We are still using 5 and 7” bass assassins when the conditions are right on half ounce jig heads and doing very well catching plenty of fish over 25” up to 33-34” on the right day. The one thing we are starting to see more and more of with this bait turnover is breaking fish. Now really quick I’m going to give you people some etiquette rules because for those who don’t know you should and those of you who do and don’t care listen up. If you come across breaking fish please do not be “that guy” who drives right up in the middle of the breaking fish and cuts the motor. You will 9 times out of 10 push those fish down and send them on their merry way which will in turn be good for nobody. The best thing you can do is come up from down tide and ease the boat just into casting distance before cutting the motor which will not only make the other boats around you happy and not want to peg you with inline sinkers, but it will leave fishing good for the duration of the feed and allow everyone to have a fair share at a great day of light tackle angling. As far as a structure bite goes, the bridge pilings have been producing, unfortunately with a lot of small fish in the mix, but like I stated earlier. You have to be the one to decide if you want to catch small fish or search for good ones meaning if you are catching 16-18” fish off a piling hand over fist for 15 minutes the likelihood of hooking a stud is minimal. Move on to the next piling and start over. Just because there are small fish on the bridge doesn’t mean there aren’t quality fish hanging around other pilings and I can assure you there is a plethora of big July fish hanging out snagging bait on the bridge. Moving things inshore a little bit, the top water bite has definitely been there as well as the paddle tail bite so early morning and late evening go ahead and hit some jetties and fallen structure as there are likely a few fish to be caught. Smack-its and Zara Spooks are my personal favorite for these conditions as well as a ¼-1/2 ounce jig head with a 5” Bass Assassin Die Dapper in any color preference you can gain some confidence in. as long as there is contrast in a lure I don’t believe it makes much of a difference honest to god. I’ve used everything from chartreuse to electric chicken, white, blue, clear, glow in the dark, you name it and with the proper amount of contrast I have experienced the same results out of just about all of them so find one you like, stick with it and roll.
Onto the chum bite. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Please use circle hooks. Still, we are seeing many undersize fish dead floating down the bay and as someone who works on the water I can say that is not a future I would like to see on the bay and I don’t think many people do so please start thinking conservatively in that regard. Belvedere shoals, Baltimore light, love pt, Dolly’s and Hackett’s have all been a good place to look for a spot to set up shop and chum. Mud flats off the channel edge in 20-30’ of water has been exceptionally well within the first and the last few hours of the tide. If there is one thing to remember more times than not is that if there is no current or too much current it is going to be hard to set lines right or hold bottom so if you can coordinate the tide right and master the tide game you have a shot of a great morning/afternoon in the making. This time of the year, a lot of guys still use monofilament but I will tell you from my own personal experiences and many others that fluorocarbon is the way to go on these fish especially if they are finicky and not eating a bait. We’ve gone as light as 15 pound before but for the most part 20 pound seems to be a good meet in the middle type of line as they say fluorocarbon is virtually invisible underwater and just one less thing to worry about.
Getting onto live lining, it has been fantastic. I’m sure most of you know we are carrying live spot for the first time in several years and they are working well. A couple dozen spot in the live well is all you need if you have some talent on the boat that won’t lose every spot they hook on. Basically what you are looking for is feeding stripers along flats, edges, structure, essentially anywhere in 15-35’ of water and the less weight the better. A lot of guys will tend to use a fishfinder rig and in certain applications it truly is the way to go but to optimize your success and time on the water I would highly recommend using no weight at all and a 4-5’ 20 pound fluorocarbon leader. The whole purpose of using live bait is to truly bring the most natural presentation so use your noggin and make it happen. As far as hooks this is where everybody varies. A lot of guys use size 2-4 treble hooks and some use a standard 4-5/0 J hook but you guys already know what I’m about to say. Circle hooks are my personal favorite for two reasons. The first one is obvious because you won’t fatally hook near as many fish and the second is simple, because even to people who don’t know how to fish can use them. Just tell them to let it come tight and wind plain and simple or leave it in the rod holder and let the boat do the work for you. It just seems to be a much more viable option and it definitely is catching on here in the mid-bay which I am happy to see.
Breaking things down to bluefish yes they are here. No they are not up this far in any huge numbers at least that I have heard from people which is good for people using soft plastics, bad for guys who like nothing more than smoked bluefish. All up and down the mid-bay, across ledges, next to bait pods and even stuck on structure we have been catching medium sized blues, 16-22”. We have had reports of guys trolling spoon rigs with planers picking away at a few of them but the best thing I can tell you to do is to jig on these fish. If you spy some stripers breaking odds are there are some bluefish in the mix and they like a very fast presentation as they are a pretty fast swimming and striking fish. Take spoons and Z-man plastics and rip that lure through the breakers as fast as you can. If you think you are going too fast, odds are you aren’t reeling fast enough so crank that puppy on in and just remember the further south you get the more blues you are going to find as the water is generally a lot higher in salt content.
While I’m on the subject of fish, bottom fishing has been good but not excellent. The perch jerking this year has been incredible around Annapolis in the mouth of the Severn and Magothy river on hard bottom in 8-16’ of water as well as the bridge pilings which are holding some absolutely huge black back perch. As far as a spot goes, spot are not really making their way up here. The further south you go the better off you are but few and far between are being caught around the Annapolis area. The ratio from perch to spot is about 30 to 1 so I think it’s safe to say they have not showed up in numbers yet but having said that if you are looking for some to live line we have plenty at the shop for 24$ a dozen! While we’re on the subject croakers are definitely around but not in huge numbers and certainly not in size. Hard bottom around Tolly’s in 16’ of water has been producing but like I said, it’s definitely on the down side as far as the grade. For lack of a better statement a 13” is a monster this year so hopefully the late summer will produce something for big croakers for us.
In other news, crabbing has been remaining steady throughout the rivers around Annapolis as well as Kent island which has been far more productive when using chicken necks and other than that the only other thing I have for you is yes you guessed it. CHANNEL CATS! THEY ARE EVERYWHERE! Okay, maybe not everywhere but if you want to go burn up some clam snouts and rotten chicken livers and drink a six pack the option is definitely there. The Chester river and Magothy river have remained steady for big kitty cats. Other than that, I have nothing more for you guys. I wish you well and I hope you have good luck, if not don’t blame it on the messenger. Good luck, god bless, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
Capt. Avedon 😉