I’ve been lying low over the past couple of weeks waiting out the craziness. Most of my fishing has been in out-of-the-way places far from the madding crowds. Radios blaring, airplanes buzzing, stereos thumping, outboards droning, helicopters whirring, sirens wailing - Wow! Boat shows, trolling tournaments, and sailing regattas make the main stem of the Chesapeake very noisy. The Bay is fully awake from her winter slumber and the crowds are back in force. While we each enjoy the water in our preferred ways, to my thinking fishing should include elements of solitude and stealth. I’ve mentioned before that I’d rather pick up aluminum cans at rush hour along I-95 than try to pick off rockfish in the main channel on a busy trolling weekend. I prefer to look off the beaten path for places where I can tune-in to something a little more pleasing than the clamorous dissonance of the masses.
Since the striped bass spawn is winding down on the Chesapeake Bay, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some post-spawn patterns. When stripers come off the spawning grounds, they’re usually hungry. If you can find them, they’re pretty easy to catch. Ah, but finding them, there’s the rub. Where should you look? Read More!
It’s a hot bite tonight. I’m fishing alone throwing topwater, a big chunky blue and silver Stillwater Smackit. Not my favorite plug, but pretty damn close. If you’ve read my book, you know where I am. If you haven’t, turn to page 50 in this month’s Chesapeake Bay Magazine and in his article, “Autumn Angling,” John Page Williams will tell you exactly where.
I’m right where John Page says I’ll be, working well inside the eight-foot-deep mark where the rocks come up to four. It’s a windy evening, too windy for topwater, but the bite is on and the fish don’t care.
There’s a full-moon-outgoing, so lots of current, too much current to stay over the spot for very long. The wind is blowing 17 knots from the northeast and building ahead of an approaching cold front. I’m drifting across the rocks way too fast. I compensate by slinging my lure as far as I can to lengthen my angle of attack. I imagine my fishing spot as a giant rectangular canvas with my lure painting a streak from the top corner to the bottom. The fish won’t hit unless I’m working the surface within four feet on either side of the underwater rocks. Unlike jigging where we work with portrait strike zones, for topwater, they’re landscape. Read More!
Sometimes I think that all I know about life comes from fishing. Other interests have waxed and waned, but the one constant, the fundemental source from which I draw strength and inspiration is the time I spend in pursuit of the perfect cast. It’s taught me a lot about life, the laws of nature, and basic principles of human interaction. I can’t recall my first boat ride, my first cast, or the first fish I caught because I can’t remember a time when any of those things were absent. Lately, as part of my Chesapeake Light Tackle mini book tour of Chesapeake Bay regional fishing clubs, bait shops, etc., I’ve been talking a lot about how science is gradually confirming what fishermen have known for generations. It almost seems like the more we learn by scientific observation, the more we confirm what fishermen have always accepted as fact. For example, most of the more than two-thousand anglers I’ve had the privilege to talk to recently were probably amused to learn that striped bass have a 50Hz visual flicker fusion frequency that is slightly slower than that of humans, but I haven’t encountered very many fishermen who are surprised when they hear that, as a result, the colors the fish see best in good light are chartreuse and white. Read More!
Not long ago we took breaking bluefish and rockfish for granted in the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, times have changed. Since there are a lot fewer fish now, we have to look a lot harder and longer for summer breakers. Granted, it’s easier on some days than it is on others. In my book, Chesapeake Light Tackle, An Introduction to Light Tackle Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay, I dedicate several pages to methods for locating breaking fish. The best strategy for finding blitzing fish under working birds is to head straight for the closest oyster bar. In my reports, I often mention that I find fish over live, hard bottoms. By that, I mean places where there are active shellfish populations.
I typically plan all my fishing trips so that I keep my boat over as many oyster bars as possible. That includes when I’m just running from one place to another. For fish to feed on the surface in the Chesapeake Bay they need three primary ingredients. In the book, I abbreviate the formula like this: C + B/HB = BF. That’s current plus bait over hard bottoms equals breaking fish. Read More!
“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!
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!