ALTHOUGH A FEW cold fronts have passed through, the water temperature in the Chesapeake remains in the lower 70s, which is keeping the migratory fish in our waters.
Blues, sea trout, spot and croaker are in virtually every creek, cove and river, and they're not choosy about what they'll eat. Most fast-action lures will take the blues. The trout will hit crabs or bucktails. The bottom-feeding species are inhaling bloodworms as soon as the line hits the water. And fishing like this could run into early November.
Virtually every tackle shop, fishing center and charter boat captain contacted this past week said they couldn't believe how fantastic the fishing has been lately. Nearly everywhere you look on the Chesapeake, you'll see breaking schools of bluefish. Several anglers said they caught up to 50 blues while casting cut bait from shore -- and they only fished for about two hours.
As one shop owner said, "If you can't catch blues right now, you should take up golf or basket weaving." From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge down to the surf at Virginia Beach, the Bay is one massive school of bluefish. WHAT'S THE CATCH?
WASHINGTON AND VICINITY
POTOMAC RIVER -- Anglers fishing near the 14th Street Bridge hooked up with some dandy largemouths this past week using plastic worms and tiny crankbaits. Bass in the five-pound category are not at all uncommon during the cooler months of autumn. A few stripers have also been reported in the same area, but overall it has been a tough season for the rockfish. A bit farther upriver, the catfish are actively feeding on the bottom and will take clam snouts worked in the deeper pockets. A bit farther downriver, crabbing is still holding up well, and sport crabbers are boasting bushel catches in less than an hour using collapsible traps and trot lines.
Near Fletchers Landing, you'll hook up with lots of smallmouths, but most are too small to keep, according to Bill Zimmerman of Bethesda. However, if you don't mind working a little for your fish, the deeper pools hold some bass weighing up to three pounds. Live crayfish and spinner baits are both productive. MARYLAND
TRIDELPHIA RESERVOIR -- Bob Griffin at Fishing and Archery Outfitters in Laurel reports the bass fishing has been improving every day. Live minnows are taking the majority of the largemouths, but a few are hitting on small crank baits during the late afternoon hours.
ROCKY GORGE -- Most of the bass caught here during the past week have been throwbacks, but the crappie fishing is starting to come alive again. Live minnows and small jigs are responsible for the better catches.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER -- Terry Rhudy's Conowingo Bait in Darlington reports there are plenty of smallmouth and largemouth bass along the rocky shoreline of the Susquehanna. From the mouth of Deer Creek to the I-95 bridge, anglers are catching limits of bass every day. The salt wedge of the upper Chesapeake has forced these fish to concentrate in the Susquehanna, making them an easy target for anglers. Small action-tailed grubs, surface plugs and large, live minnows are the most productive baits.
SUSQUEHANNA FLATS -- Although the high winds of last week churned the water and made it a bit cloudy, there were several good- sized largemouths taken from the grass beds, according to Herb Benjamin at Herb's Tackle Shop in Northeast. Herb said the fish are congregated on the upper end of the flats and will take a Rebel plug worked along the edge of the grass. Lots of stripers are in the same area, and they, of course, must be released. Scattered catches of white perch are also being made in the same area, along with some huge catfish. The cats are averaging about four pounds, but nearly every day someone catches one of ten or more pounds using cut bait.
GUNPOWDER AND DUNDEE RIVERS -- Sue Demaf at Gunpowder Bait and Tackle in Essex reports the fishing in the Gunpowder and Dundee Rivers has been outstanding. For the past several weeks, excellent catches of yellow and white perch have been made by anglers using live minnows for bait. The white perch average about ten inches and some of the yellow perch measure up to 15 inches. Crabbing remains good in the area, but the blueclaws won't remain in the area much longer because of falling water temperature. VIRGINIA
LAKE ANNA -- Pete Sprague at Lake Anna Sporting Goods says the smaller bass are now schooled in tight bunches. One- pound largemouths are taking sliders, jigs, small crankbaits and tiny torpedos. Striper fishing, although improved from what it was just a week ago, is still hit-or-miss. The most productive bait for the stripers has been live gizzard shad hooked on a 4/0 hook and drifted. The water temperature is still too warm for good crappie fishing, but, according to Sprague, a few crappies weighing slightly more than a pound are now being caught in deep water.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE -- There has been some striper action for early-morning anglers, says Cecilia Bowman in Moneta. Stripers of up to five or more pounds are being taken by live shad drifted along the bottom. During the late afternoon hours, a few stripers have been sighted breaking on schools of gizzard shad. Bass fishing has also improved and late-day fishermen are managing to hook up with largemouths while casting surface plugs.
JAMES RIVER -- Margaret Coppage at Timberlake Sporting Goods in Lynchburg reports smallmouth bass fishing has been fair for anglers drifting live helgramites in the fast water. A few bass are also going for Tiny Torpedos cast at the base of some of the rapids. The smallmouth bass fishing generally improves here as the weather gets cooler.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- The smallmouth bass fishing has really improved here, says Carl Gentry at Chesley's Sporting Goods in Fredericksburg. Live minnows, small surface lures and spinners have accounted for the better catches. In the tidal portion of the river, largemouth bass are being taken on plastic worms and spinner baits, while the crappies, which have recently become active, are taking live minnows. Some of the crappies are running up to a pound or more. CHESAPEAKE BAY
UPPER BAY -- Clyde Blamberg at Clyde's Sport Shop in Baltimore says the blues are still being caught from the beach at Fort Smallwood, and, although the average snapper is only about three pounds, a few 15-pounders or better are taken every day. Whole spot and cut bait fished during the outgoing tide has been the best bait for the blues. Scattered catches of white perch are still being made in most of the creeks entering into the upper Bay and a few good-sized yellow perch are mixed with them. Clam snouts, bloodworms, live minnows and small pieces of peeler crab have been the most productive baits for the perch.
BAY BRIDGE -- The U.S. Powerboat Show at the city dock last week must have kindled the fishing fever of some of the visitors. According to Charlie Ebensberger at the Anglers Sport Center on U.S. 50 in Annapolis, his shop has been deluged with anglers heading out for blues, which are constantly breaking within sight of the Bay Bridge. "The place is crawling with blues," says Ebensberger, "and they'll hit any lure that falls in the water." On the calmer days, you can see 15 to 20 schools of breaking blues -- all of which will tip the scales at four to six pounds.
Good catches of white perch are once again being made in the Magothy River near Gibson Island. Small spinners, trimmed with a chunk of bloodworm or peeler crab are devastating these fish. The mouth of the Severn River is also a good bet for some snapper blues and a few white perch. Upriver, near the old railroad bridge, anglers are catching larger perch and a few blues.
SOUTH RIVER -- Several charter boats working the mouth of the South River have had to run only a few miles to get into some fantastic fishing. Breaking blues are everywhere you look, and boats such as Captain George Cord's "Sea Dove" and Paula Shipley's "Fantasy Factory" have been able to return to the docks early with their coolers filled to the brim with three- blues.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH -- Captain "Shaker" Black at the Rod'n'Reel Dock reports the past few days have been somewhat disappointing in his area. Catches of blues were averaging nearly 50 or more fish per boat, but the cold snap moved the fish to other locales. With any luck, the massive schools of blues to the north will migrate through the middle Bay within the next few days and fishing will once again be red hot.
DEALE -- If you're looking for variety, you'll find it here says Captain George Prenant on the charter boat "Stormy Petrel." Excellent catches of four-g made with a variety of techniques. Trollers using small surgical hose eels are hooking up with large numbers of snappers, but the most exciting fishing has been casting small- medium-sized surface plugs to the breaking fish. When the lures are retrieved at high speeds, the fish hit them like a freight train.
PATUXENT RIVER -- Ken Lamb at The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports a few fair-sized trout are being caught near Green Holly at the mouth of the Patuxent. However, the bluefish activity has overshadowed the trout fishing. This especially holds true when the blues are breaking by the thousands and at times banging into the side of your boat. A bit farther upriver, good catches of spot and white perch are being made by bottom fishermen. These tasty fish are taking bloodworms, peelers and clam snouts fished on the bottom. In fact, Lamb says, "the catches of spot are better now than they have been throughout the summer." Light tackle buffs have been able to hook up with some larger perch by casting small spinners along the shoreline. Some of the perch have weighed more than 11/2 pounds.
POINT LOOKOUT -- Sally Scheible at Scheible's Fishing Center says she's personally glad to see the cold weather coming their way. The first cold snap usually triggers the migration of the sea trout, which often will congregate in Cornfield Harbor just before departing the Bay. According to Scheible, some trout have already made an appearance in the harbor and the blues are stacked up like cordwood. Catches of up to 150 blues per day have been made by chummers, and trollers are hooking up with about half that amount. Most of the creeks are swarming with some good-sized white perch, but only a few local anglers are actively seeking them.
NORTH EAST RIVER -- Herb Benjamin at Herb's Tackle Shop in Northeast reports the crappies are beginning to school in the river, and, although most are still a bit on the small side, some will hit the 12-inch mark. Bass fishing has also improved, and several medium-sized largemouths have been caught by local anglers. Catfish are here in good numbers and will take most any bait fished on the bottom. Some have weighed more than 10 pounds.
KENT ISLAND -- Small sea trout, flounder and blues are plentiful along the drop-offs, say the folks at The Angler's Sport Center in Annapolis. The blues have been breaking throughout the daylight hours, and they'll take any lure or bait that falls in the water. Anglers fishing from the Matapeake Pier have been hooking up with some six- blues. Whole, live spot fished on the bottom have been producing the better catches. Scattered catches of small sea trout and flounder are still being made under the twin spans of the Bay Bridge. Both species are taking squid strips hooked to the back end of small jigs and drifted along the bottom. The most productive area has been near the outfall pipe where there is a submerged rockpile.
TILGHMAN ISLAND -- The Chesapeake House reports success with loads of blues and trout weighing up to six pounds. The best area for both species has been at the Stone Rock, just above Sharps Island Light. However, the trout fishing is hit-or-miss, and a dozen weakfish per day is considered good. Peeler crab baits will take the trout; the blues are slamming surgical hose eels and small spoons.
CAMBRIDGE -- Tommy's Sporting Goods in Cambridge reports the fishing has been fantastic. Breaking blues are everywhere you look, and even shorebound anglers are managing to hook with loads of three- pounders. Cut bait has produced well for surf fishermen, and topwater plugs are being chewed to pieces when cast to the breaking fish. Upriver, anglers are hooking up with some good-sized white perch and small spot. The perch are running about 10 to 12 inches in length, which isn't bad for this early in the fall season. The spot are too small to keep unless you use them for bluefish bait. Small sea trout are swarming the waters just below the U.S. 50 bridge, and although these fish only average a little over a pound, they put up a good battle on ultra-light tackle.
NANTICOKE RIVER -- During the past several weeks, Dave Watson at Dave's Sport Shop in Royal Oak has been weighing in loads of sea trout of from three to nine pounds. "Getting bait is the main problem," says Watson. The better catches are being made on peeler crabs, and the only peelers are frozen -- not fresh. However, Watson did say several anglers have been catching some large trout using bucktails trimmed with squid strips. Most of the Lower Eastern Shore creeks are still loaded with medium-sized white perch, but only a few local youngsters are fishing for them since the trout became active.
TANGIER SOUND -- Captain Dick Arnold on the charterboat "Robin L" reports the sea trout fishing has been running hot and cold in the Tangier Sound. Just a few days ago, Arnold hooked up with 30 huge sea trout while bottom fishing with peeler crabs. These fish ranged from 10 to 13 pounds. Two days later, Arnold had trouble catching half a dozen trout in the same area. Fall flounder fishing has been a disaster this year in the Sound. ATLANTIC OCEAN
OCEAN CITY -- Great Gull Shoal is alive with sea trout, croaker, flounder and a few sharks according to Bahia Marina. Some of the trout are now tipping the scales at more than three pounds, and some huge blues have moved in with them. The majority of the charter fleet is now getting ready for winter by heading for the warm waters of South Florida, but with a little luck, we'll see a good tuna run offshore within the next few days.
WACHAPREAGUE -- Most of the charter boats running out of Wachapreague Marina have been returning to the docks by noon with their coolers bulging with gray trout and flounder. Mixed with the trout are also some fair-sized croaker, but these fish will soon migrate to southern waters.
CAPE CHARLES -- Captain Don Stiles on the charter boat "Elizabeth" berthed at Kings Creek Marina, reports the fishing has been excellent at the southernmost portion of the Delmarva Penninsula. Sea trout ranging from one to three pounds are migrating into the area, and good catches of jumbo spot are still being made just out from the harbor entrance. Good concentrations of red drum are still lingering at the inshore wrecks and a whopping 47-pounder was caught this past week. Captain Otis Asal on the charter boat "Bucaneer" has been booking weekend parties for tautog, which are just starting to make an appearance at the wrecks. The tog are considerably larger than those caught this past spring, and now average about six to eight pounds. By the end of the month, larger fish will be concentrated at the shallower wrecks, and a 14-pound tog won't raise an eyebrow.