I recently found some old pictures of myself in diapers, standing beside a small wooden boat parked in front of a Tennessee farmhouse. Towering above me was my father, and at my bare feet was a nice stringer of fat largemouth bass.  Did I catch them?  Probably not, but like any good fisherman, I’ll happily take the credit.  I might even tell you a tall tale about how – at the ripe old age of two – I tricked them into biting a lure that I hand carved from a boar’s tusk with a Bowie knife, and how they pulled harder than a Smoky Mountain mule.

There’s no doubt that I owe much of what I know about fishing to my father.  There’s nothing better than fishing with family.  All three of my sons have become first-class fishermen. This week I’ve been fishing with my family’s next generation of anglers.  I’ve had a great time on the water with my son Daniel and my granddaughter Ella. I’m happy to report that Chesapeake Bay salinity levels are finally climbing back toward normal levels (see chart below), although they’re still low.  Since conditions are stablizing, striped bass fishing is getting a little more reliable.  That isn’t to say some days aren’t better than others, but we’re at the point where I at least think we can count on a few fish on any given outing.

I’m noticing a lot more bait than we’ve seen yet this year, especially in areas south of Poplar Island.  As a result, the channel edges around Sharps Island down to the Gooses Reef have turned up some pretty good fish.  Many anglers are live-lining Norfolk spot now, and a few are still trolling.  Chumming seems to be the go-to method from Thomas Point to the Bay Bridge.  There’s also a lot of chumming going on in the Upper Bay with the mouth of the Chester River and the Hickory Thickets turning up some decent fish.

For those of us who get bored with trolling and like more of a challenge than baitfishing, the jigging bite has been pretty good at most of the better-known locations.  My buddy Jamie and his crew has been working the Mid-Bay and finding a consistent bite with some thirty-inch plus fish that are mostly suspended near deep ledges.  He reports that his best fish are coming on light jig heads, so he’s moved down to five-eights-ounce heads.

I’m concentrating mostly on the Bay Bridge area and some humps to the north, but making occasional forays into Eastern Bay and down toward Poplar Island.  Breaking fish are still rare, (although some of the menhaden I’ve seen flipping are big enough to look like breakers) but if I keep moving around over the oyster reefs, I can usually spot a few fish on sonar.   Winds have been calm lately so it’s been a little easier to see pods of bait near the surface.  If I see bait schools over a ledge or hard bottom, I always stop and take a look.

Daniel and I fished most of the day on Father’s Day Sunday.  Things were hit & miss for most of the early afternoon.  We looked around quite a bit, and lost a couple of nice stripers, but we had committed to bringing fish home for a fish fry and so far, the cooler was empty.  That all changed about 4:30 PM when we ran up on a nice school of fish not far from where we put in.   Once we were over the fish, we had four keepers in four minutes. Since the summer striped bass limit is one fish under twenty-eight-inches, plus one over per person, I put two twenty-six-inchers and a twenty-nine in the cooler, but left the last spot in our limit open in hopes of an even bigger “over.”

We continued to catch & release fish using six-inch hotrodded BKDs attached to either half or three-quarter-ounce barbless jig heads.  I thought we were in a pretty good class of fish, so moved on up to ten-inch BKDs.  Despite several stripers in the twenty-nine to thirty-inch class, we still held out hope for that big fish.  Just about the time the sun started to set over the suspension spans of the Bay Bridge, on the last thirty-minutes of outgoing current, Daniel set the hook into a solid fish.  Deep rod dips told us he had on a nice one.  I grabbed the camera as he guided a wide thirty-four incher away from the pilings to the side of Thunder Road.

I got home from work last night in time to get back out with my granddaughter Ella.  At five-years-old, she’s already landed her share of Chesapeake Bay rockfish. We considered starting her on a baitcaster, but I had an Okuma spinning reel attached to a pretty pink rod she wanted to cast.  I handed her an orange garlic dye pen so she could hotrod her own BKD. Daniel’s comment was, “if it looks like a worm that someone marked all over, that’s about right,” but she went for a more elaborate design – horizontal slashes accented by a long vertical line.  Hmm, I might have to start trying that!

She and her dad hooked up at the same time.  She was struggling to turn the reel handle, and her fish was taking drag, so I offered to help.  “No, no, don’t help me,” she yelled.  I stood back with my camera and documented the fight.  Her dad released his fish and moved to the back of the boat to lip the one she had on. It came across the rail at a healthy twenty-eight inches – pretty good jigging for a five-year old, huh?

At first she wanted to keep her fish, but I told her we had already caught enough for our fish fry when we were out the day before. So, she named it “Shelly” and watched it swim away.  She named all the other fish we caught too. There was Charlie and Jaden, and a little one named Tucker, even a couple that were named after her dad and granddad.  I got the idea of naming fish from my son Cory who always names the fish he turns loose.  I’ve started teaching it to kids on my boat and I even talk about it in my Careful Catch presentations because I think it’s a great way to encourage a release ethic.  Frankly, it works pretty well for adults too.  In fact, that’s the second personal best I’ve seen this year named Shelly.  The first one was back in February and went over fifty pounds.

I’m hoping to get out again soon with the family, so maybe I can get another report up this week.  Because the weather has been pretty mild lately, water temperatures have leveled off in the mid-seventies.  If we don’t get any major algae blooms fishing should stay good for a while.   Hope you can find some time to get out and enjoy the bite.  If you’re out there with kids, try playing the name game.  You might be surprised at who they’re naming their fish after.

Posted Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 at 3:23 pm
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “Name That Fish – Father’s Day Weekend”

  1. uncle phill says:

    Nice! Thanks for the good read, its always a pleasure.

  2. jumbo1 says:

    Awesome read Shawn…that little girl is learning right…great looking fish ol’ buddy…the last pic is a beauty…

  3. Bill M says:

    catching fish while you’re catching memories!
    great pictures and story!

    Memories they can’t be boughten
    They can’t be won at carnivals for free
    Well it took me years
    To get those souvenirs
    And I don’t know how they slipped away from me.

  4. Gitzit2 says:

    great story, Shawn.
    Lil Miss Ella has two generations of great fishermen to emulate….it’s no wonder she is this good at just 5 years old!

  5. tacklemake says:

    Shawn great story keep them coming…..woody

    The pasadena sportfishing group is looking for you to be the speaker for Oct,let me no if you can make it.

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