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Fishing Reports

By all accounts, 2012 was an unusual year for fishing.  For me, it was absolutely strange at times. I jigged up my biggest striper of the year on the first day of the year, a 49-incher that might have pushed 50-pounds. It was the only fish I caught.  A few days later I got another 47-incher and another one about that size on the next day. Each time it was only one fish per day.  Is one fish worth five hours or more of casting?  When they’re that size, I think so!  Those were some of my biggest fish of 2012, but I’ve been lucky enough to jig up a few more mid-40s class fish since then including this pretty 45-incher I caught in the snow this week.  Warm water discharge (WWD) fishing was good last spring, but we really had to pick our days.  Our most successful times were early-morning windy weekdays when it was raining or snowing.  The WWD big fish bite is always very specific.  I explain how to get the trophies in my book, Chesapeake Light Tackle, An Introduction to Light Tackle Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay.  Read More!

Fishing Reports

“There are no more deserts. There are no more islands. Yet there is a need for them. In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion; in order to serve men better, one has to hold them at a distance for a time. But where can one find the solitude necessary to vigor, the deep breath in which the mind collects itself and courage gauges its strength? There remain big cities.”  -ALBERT CAMUS from THE MINOTAUR.

I must apologize for the lack of fishing reports lately.  I’ve required some time to concentrate on other interests, dance for a while to the songs in my head, and step back to reassess some priorities after over-extending a little.  I’m currently writing from a boat off the Florida Keys. I’ve been here for the past ten days or so.  It’s been relaxing, rejuvenating actually, and I’ve enjoyed some successful fishing.  My time for tuning out is about over, so next week I’ll be back working in the big city, and perhaps more importantly, back in the swing of the Chesapeake fishing scene.  On August 20th I’ll speak to the Broadneck/Magothy MSSA chapter about Strike Triggers and Catch & Release techniques. The following night, August 21st, I’ll travel to the Essex/Middle River chapter to present a similar talk.  On August 25th and 26th I’ll have a book-signing table and also give a couple of talks at the 6th Annual Maryland Buck Wild Outdoors Expo.  Look for me all day Saturday and Sunday. Read More!

Fishing Reports

I got eelgrass veins and brackish blood, I wrote my name in the tidal mud.”  Daniel Kimbro from the song “Cape Charles.”

Eelgrass – it’s not something we’re used to seeing much in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay.  According to the Maryland DNR website, it’s most likely found in high salinity areas of the Chesapeake Bay, approximately from the Choptank River south to the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Charles and in the smaller coastal bays. Because of poor water quality, bay grasses are at historically low levels, so it’s a little odd that we’re seeing eelgrass farther north than usual this summer. It’s probably a result of high salinity coupled with sustained warmer temperatures – we’ve just come through the warmest twelve consecutive months ever recorded in the United States.  On my StructureScan sonar, eelgrass and its cousin wild celery grass, looks like underwater fields of waving amber grain.  Baitfish hide in it, and rockfish love it.

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Fishing Reports

Suspended fish, I hate ‘em. Scattered fish suspending in deep water is one of the most difficult situations a light tackle angler will encounter on the Chesapeake Bay.  In years past, I’ve refused to target suspended fish. I’d rather run fifteen additional miles looking for stripers feeding off the bottom than fool with the picky little snots.  But, as Bob Dylan might say, The Times, They Are a Changin’. Bad water makes everything different. As predicted in my last entry, low oxygen levels have led to prolific algae blooms in the tributary rivers and in some areas of the main stem of the Bay. Conditions are worse around the western shore rivers since more people live there and there is more pollution.

Pollution, especially nutrients like nitrates and phosphorus get into the Bay as a result of raw sewage dumping, storm-water runoff, and excessive fertilizer use. This makes the water very fertile, so small microscopic plants such as algae grow rapidly. The algae cells block sunlight, then die and sink to the bottom creating areas of low oxygen where fish can’t survive. Since dissolved oxygen levels were already at record lows this year, it didn’t take long for the blooming and decaying cycle to use up whatever oxygen was left. Read More!

Fishing Reports

We’ve enjoyed a pretty good spring of light-tackle fishing on the Chesapeake Bay.  Water temperatures warmed early, then leveled off through the end of April into May.  Top-water casting is good right now at some places.  Some anglers are even sight-casting surface lures and flies to cruising fish on shallow oyster bars near the mouths of the rivers.  The water in some parts of the Upper Bay is clearer than I’ve ever seen it.  While that makes surface fishing enjoyable, it also makes jigging tough since it’s easier for stripers to distinguish the difference between our lures and baitfish. The clear water looks nice,  but there’s a big problem lurking below the surface: Low dissolved oxygen (DO).  Measured in milligrams per litre, dissolved oxygen levels were recorded at 1.04 on the bottom beneath the Bay Bridge in April.  That’s lower than they’ve been in twenty-five years. Look out for big algae blooms coming soon. Salinity also peaked to record levels in April.  Last spring, Bay Bridge salinity was 4.20 ppt.  This year, it’s more than twice that at 10.50 ppt.  DO levels are also low in Eastern Bay, although salinity there is closer to normal.  What does this mean for the fishing?  Read More!

Fishing Reports

In the last CLT entry, I wrote about the five reasons why Chesapeake Bay stripers attack a lure: hunger, reaction, competition, territory protection, and curiosity. When fish are hungry, they’re easy to catch. Almost any lure or technique will work on hunger-feeding fish. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time or resources to constantly run around looking for schools of voracious fish. If you’re like me, you have to fish in the limited time you have available, and you probably stay close to home. While we may occasionally happen upon groups of ravenous fish, most of the stripers we encounter are hard to catch. In order to be consistently successful, we have to provoke strikes from fish that may not be particularly inclined to bite. Strike producing lures are especially important right now since we have trophy rockfish migrating in and out of the Bay. Our chances for catching-and-releasing a 50-pounder on light tackle are better than at any other time of year, but migrating fish have other things on their minds besides eating. Big fish get bigger by being smart and getting smarter. To catch them, we need to cast lures that will provoke strikes by appealing to their five senses;  sight, sound, smell, feel and taste.  I call the formula 5 by 5.  By that, I mean we can consider the five reasons why fish strike, then use lures designed to appeal to each of their five senses in order to come up with the best of all possible strike triggers. In this installment we’ll look at striped bass eyesight. Read More!

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