photo-1While I’m still stuck slogging through the DC sludge, some intrepid light-tackle fishermen are braving the cold conditions in the Chesapeake and lighting up the winter hotspots.  My friends Nick & Shane got out in the Mid-Bay one morning this past week and found some nice fish including this 42 incher caught jigging structure with soft plastic baits.  There are still some good fish in the area.  Every year more and more rockfish winter over in the Bay.  They sometimes hold semi-dormant in deep holes where the water is warmer, but actively feeding fish are found in areas of high turbulence.  Although stripers love fast-moving water any time of year, in cold weather they are especially attracted to locations where downward agitation forces bait deep into the warmer layers of the thermo/pycnocline.

Winter fish prefer warm water layers even when there is more bait closer to the cooler surface. In other words, they’d rather eat a little in an area where they are comfortable than a lot in a place where they’re not.  A perfect example of this is the wintertime fishery I call Light Tackle University.  The Bay Bridge usually holds fish well into February, but the trick is knowing how to find them.

Scientist who study the Chesapeake recognize the area around the Bay Bridge as the Estuarine Turbidity Maximum or ETM.  Water in this area is in a constant state of flux due to the proximity of several large fresh-water rivers, the geophysical narrowing of the Bay, and the turbulence created by the structure of the bridge.  Depending on the force of daily tidal currents and fluctuations in salinity, there can be multiple hydraulic layers of differing water temperatures.  The challenge for the fisherman is to find the layer the fish like best.  Sometimes cold-weather stripers will suspend in their warm comfort zone even if it’s in the middle of the water column, but all things being equal, they’d rather hide out closer to the bottom.   An area where the temperate band intersects the bottomBridgeStriperTwoSmallSize.JPG will usually hold fish.  Find a turbulent area where a comfort zone corresponds to rocky structure, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a winter fishing spot.

Hardcore light tackle angler Joe “Friday” had a good day at the bridge last Saturday.  It takes a determined fisherman to get out in 20 degree temps on a frosty December morning, even in a boat with curtains or a covered cabin.  Joe took his dedication to the next level.  He geared up in cold-weather survival gear and launched his Hobie Adventure kayak off the beach on Kent Island. After paddling the three miles out to the rockpiles, he found the temperate zone between 45 & 60 feet and worked it until it started producing.  Fortunately for those of us who stayed home in front of the fire this weekend, Joe wore a video camera on his hat and recorded the action.  I’ve featured his video-report on the opening page and a higher resolution version at the bottom of this page.

DSC_0007Speaking of turbulence, I’m boat shopping.  I may not be ready to pull the plug on Crockett’s Reel just yet, but it’s getting more and more expensive to keep her on the water.  She’s in the shop now awaiting yet another two grand repair. It doesn’t make sense to keep putting money into her. I’m not yet sure where my search will take me, but I have some interesting prospects to consider.  I’m enjoying the process and learning about how some of the better boats on the Bay are built.

Tuesday, Dec. 15 is the last day of the kill season in the Maryland section of the Bay.  That means Wednesday marks the opening of catch & release season.  It’s the time of year I look forward to most.   On some days you can run miles in open water and never see another boat.  The fish are still here, you just can’t kill them.  To me, a deserted Bay and lively fish seems like the best of all possible situations.  I hope to see you out there!

Related posts:

Winter Catch & Release
Winter 2016 in Review
January Video Report & Winter Speaking Schedule

Posted Monday, December 14th, 2009 at 11:20 pm
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “Winter Turbulence”

  1. Daniel says:

    cool video. don’t suppose your considering one of those for the next crockett’s reel?

  2. Mike Burrows says:

    Thanks for the post Shawn. I’m hoping to get out in the next week or so. Let me know if you need a ride.

    Mike

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