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Independence Day Weekend - Chesapeake Light Tackle

Okay, so this entry might be a little heavy on the fireworks and light on the rockfish.¬† That’s because I’m not too good at fishing in crowds, so I spent most of last weekend doing chores around the house.¬† That’s not to say I didn’t get some time in on the water.¬† In fact, I don’t think I missed a day, but most of my time on Thunder Road was spent cruising to fireworks shows around Kent Island.¬† Since this is a fishing website, I’ll start with a catching report.¬† I met Rich at Sandy Point State Park Friday afternoon for a few minutes of piling picking onboard his 19′ Sea Hunt center console.¬† There was very little wind but plenty of boat wakes, so we took our time getting to the our fishing spots. We had a ripping outgoing current so we rigged up soft plastic lures on three-quarter ounce jig heads.¬† I was throwing a hotrodded white 6″ BKD and Rich had on some kind of chartreuse lure I didn’t recognize. I think we caught keeper size stripers on our first four casts, so we could have had a 5-minute limit.¬† We stayed with it for two and a half hours and released 27 keepers with plenty of shorts.¬† We caught on both the east and west sides of the bridge, even sneaking in downstream of some bored-looking live-liners who didn’t seem to share our amusement when we pulled nice fish right out from under the pilings where they were anchored.¬†

Saturday night, my wife and I launched at Shipping Creek and cruised across Eastern Bay to St. Michaels where we anchored up and enjoyed a nice picnic on the boat.¬† It turned out to be a pretty sunset and the fireworks were great.¬† Crockett, my 4-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever isn’t much of a fireworks fan, but he still enjoyed the trip.¬†

I’ve been dealing with some electronics issues and, wouldn’t you know it, my lights failed just as I fired the engine after the fireworks finale.¬† That made for an interesting trip home.¬† I’ve ran 30 miles in four foot seas on a pitch black night in February, and wasn’t nearly as worried as I was coming back across Eastern Bay.¬† For a few minutes there I felt like a sitting duck with all the Cigarette boats and cruisers whizzing by.¬† Fortunately, my GPS and sonar still worked so I manged to escape via a route that was well out of the way in the shallow water along the eastern shore.

For the Fourth of July holiday, we launched at Matapeake and cruised across to Annapolis.¬† I stopped along the way to show my wife the Herbert Maxwell wreck on sidescan.¬† I’m not sure she was as excited about it as I was.¬† I also found another wreck in the vicinity.¬† This one also appears to be¬†a large wooden vessel and is located in much deeper water.¬† I hope to get some time to do some research and I’ll report back when I learn more.

As usual, there was a big Independence Day crowd in Naptown.¬† We arrived early enough to make the Ego Alley turnaround and timed it just right to hear the Navy band play the national anthem. We didn’t see nearly as many big yachts as in years past.¬† I guess the economy and high fuel prices has taken its toll.¬† We anchored up in 4-foot of water off Horn Point where we had a great view of the show.¬† We ran into several friends and neighbors along the way.¬† There was a big line at the Matapeake boat ramp when we got back, but I was well prepared for the wait.

Tonight I got home from work in time to fish for a little while in the upper Bay.¬† I found fish in open water over an oyster bar northwest of Love Point.¬† I also landed a 30-pound cownose ray that ate my Specialized Baits L’ill Bunker lure.¬† When I hook into a ray I usually try to get it boat side.¬† For one thing, it’s a good way to test out your equipment, knots, hooks, drag, etc.¬† If you can land a big ray, you should be able to handle a state-record rockfish. I fought the beast to the side of the boat, rolled him over on his back and used my ARC dehooker to get my lure out of its mouth. I haven’t tried to eat a ray yet, but I’m working up my nerve for it.¬† I hear they’re pretty good on the grill.

I finished the night casting to the pilings in a surprisingly strong incoming. I moved up to a 1-ounce jig head on a chartreuse BKD and found fish holding close to the bottom, well off the pilings.  Fishing was good and I released 22 keeper size stripers up to 32 inches and kept a wide 26-incher that I fileted for dinner.

Fishing above and around the Bay Bridge has been really good if you know where to look and how to work the pilings, but it’s getting a little crowded now with everything from floatboats to big cruisers running their engines against the pilings¬†and sending the bigger fish packing. ¬†A lot of fishermen at the bridge do all the right things except one, they forget to be stealthy. If you want to catch fish, especially summer trophies, you have to be sneaky. I need a change of scenery anyway, so I plan to fish the mid-Bay more in the next couple of weeks.¬† I may also make a few runs down around Bloodsworth Island because there are reports that some big redfish are showing up.¬† I’ll let you know how it goes.¬† Here are a few more shots of Independence Day fireworks from both sides of Kent Island.

Posted Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 at 11:39 pm
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “Independence Day Weekend”

  1. Bill M says:

    After Friday I would have considered the entire weekend a success!

    Glad you had a nice July 4th weekend. Great pictures, good stories. Always look forward to future articles. God Bless America.

  2. Mike says:

    Hey Shawn,

    Saw you out there yesterday afternoon at the bridge. We were on my buddys, new to him, 21 seacraft with the pale blue/green hull. That was our first time out on her and first time fishing the bridge via powerboat on our own. We usually fish the BB via kayak and maintaining a good drift is actually much easier from the plastic boats. Do you leave your boat in gear when you nose up to the pilings or what? we were pulling up through the pilings and drifting back and it was nearly impossible to keep a lure near vertical. We could use a CLT class on drift control. Thanks!

  3. Shawn says:

    Hi Mike – I always position the boat from the downstream side. Since it was incoming last night, that means I stayed on the north side of whatever bridge I was fishing. If you motor up too far or drift past the piling, you’ll spook the fish. So I get a little momentum and nose the bow into the current within casting distance of the pilings, then just let her drift back. When the current isn’t strong, I kill the engine. It’s absolutely critical this year to have a heavy enough jig head so you can feel the bottom, even in ripping current. Sometimes, you only get three or four bottom touches per cast, but that’s all you need. Also, the fish are well off the bases of the pilings right now and prefer a slanted drop over a vertical one. If I can get a long cast into the current and let my lure swim downstream, popping it up only when it touches down on the bottom, I get strikes on every try.

    In heavy current like the before-dark incoming last night, I sometimes leave the engine on, but I compensate by staying way way back off the pilings and make long casts. There have been times when the current is strong with the wind when I’ve left the boat in gear, but it wasn’t close last night. That’s tough to do when fishing by yourself.

    I just can’t say enough how important it is to stay back and keep the fish off guard. Last night I caught six fish off a piling where a bunch of kids were drifting around live-lining with their engine running. I knew the Norfolk spot they were using for bait was attracting fish, but they weren’t catching because they were too close and noisy. As soon as they got frustrated and motored off I snuck in and popped the fish.

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks! I saw that same boat two weekends ago doing the exact same thing and I pulled my kayak close to them and poached a couple of shorts off of their spot haha.

  5. Shawn says:

    (grin) A good strategy would have been just to follow them around and fish wherever they left!

  6. Mike Robertson says:

    If that pitch black night in February you referred to is that one we made on crocketts reel to the rips that time……………..that remains etched in my memory for sure. I’ve never seen it so dark.

  7. Shawn says:

    Ha ha… that was one of them. So dark we couldn’t see Poplar Island or the outline of any shoreline, and no GPS so just had to line up the towers and hope for the best.

  8. Mike says:

    oh yeah one last thing, how do you get garlic dye off the deck? after warning everyone about it somehow we still ended up “hot-rodding” the boat.

  9. Colin Crozier says:

    I haven’t checked in in a bit. Great report and great info. Nice having a mensa fisherman in the ‘hood.

  10. RogerT says:

    Shawn,Great report & read.I don’t think those Cow nose ray’s are good to eat. If so they wouldn’t be such a big problem now.
    Whatever you do don’t bring them on your boat,they raise holy hell and wreck your boat!

  11. Shawn says:

    I’ve heard good and bad about cownose rays. I’m sure a live one would really mess things up. I’ve been told it’s best to whack them on the head and cut off the tail before you bring them onboard. I’ve gaffed and handed two up to guys who are fishing off Matapeake Pier. They’re always excited to get them, and they’re selling them in some DC restaurants so I’m keeping an open mind anyway.

  12. Shawn says:

    > oh yeah one last thing, how do you get garlic dye
    > off the deck? after warning everyone about it
    > somehow we still ended up ‚Äúhot-rodding‚ÄĚ the boat.

    Oops.. chartreuse wears off in the sun faster than any color, then orange, then red, but if it was blue, you just might as well paint a frame around the spot and call it modern deck art. I have a spot on my deck that’s been there well over a year.

  13. Chris says:

    I keep the dyes in the cooler and dip ba/bkd/flukes over the cooler. Inside of the yeti is technicolor pattern.

  14. Daniel says:

    Take the juice of 1 can Vienna Sausages and apply to the garlic dye. Scrub with steel wool, then rinse with 1/2 bottle of Miller High Life. If first application doesn’t work, eat wieners and consume beer. Repeat process until you don’t care anymore…

  15. Shawn says:

    Ha! Daniel, I will try that!

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