P1260037I’ve mentioned in previous reports that there are an extraordinary number of striped bass in the Bay this winter.  It’s never been unusual to find a few big fish here and there during cold weather, but each year there seem to be more nice fish wintering over.   I’ve managed a couple of trips this week with very good results as you can see in the photos below. Curious about why there are so many January rockfish, I put the question to Maryland Department of Natural Resources Senior Fisheries Biologist “Rockfish” Rudy Lukacovic when I ran into him at the Boatyard Bar & Grill in Annapolis one evening this week.  Rudy thinks it’s all a part of changing migration patterns.  He also noted that there have been fewer fish in the usual wintering grounds off the coast of the Carolinas in recent years.

I believe the changing patterns are a result of a gradual warming of the Chesapeake Bay.  This has been a relatively cold winter here on Kent Island, but don’t confuse current weather patterns with overall climate.   According to peer reviewed scientific research presented in a 2004 American Fisheries Society Symposium, average water temperatures in the Chesapeake have risen 2 degrees since P1260050the 1960s. Twenty years ago it was not unusual for the main stem of the Bay to freeze over, but despite this year’s record-setting nor’easters and the snowiest Mid-Atlantic winter in recent memory, water temps are holding above freezing.  Our neighbors to the north are reporting that their snowmobiles are sitting idle.

Warmer water has changed the behavior of  many mid-Atlantic wildlife species.  Consistently milder winters are affecting duck hunters since many species stop short of their usual Chesapeake winter habitat in favor of more suitable areas farther north.  Native Canada geese populations are booming as fewer see the need to migrate south.  Last January, I even saw pelicans perched on the rockpiles beneath the Bay Bridge.

The trade-off for good winter fishing in the Bay is surely poorer water quality in the summer.  Warmer water contributes to worsening dead zones and harmful algae blooms, enhances diseases such as mycobacteriosis, and encourages the expansion of harmful invasive species. In short, it ruins the water our fish swim in.  I’m not sure what fishermen can do to slow the rising temperatures, but there is something we can do right now to improve the water quality in our beloved Bay.

P1260056On October 20, 2009, Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Elijah Cummings introduced the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act in Congress to reauthorize Section 117 of the Clean Water Act. This bill is the most important legislation for the Chesapeake Bay since the Clean Water Act was enacted 37 years ago.  The bill is staunchly opposed by big industry and corporations that want to keep polluting as they always have.  Our representatives in Washington are divided.  In short, we’re looking at the biggest fight for clean water this nation has ever seen.  It’s time for fishermen to step up and have our say.  Our children deserve clean water to fish in.

The best way I know to get involved is simply to write to your Senator or Representative and ask him or her to support Senate bill S. 1816 and House Bill H.R. 3852 to reauthorize Section 117 of the Clean Water Act.  The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has simplified the process with its Online Action Center.  There’s also some great information about other avenues on their Action Alert website.  It’s totally free, and anyone can participate.  The pictures in this report are from an early morning trip I made this week with my friend Jamie from Easton, MD.  That’s Dennis hooked up with a 40 inch fish in the first photo. My big fish came on a 10″ hotrodded BKD with a 2 ounce Kandy Korn jig head in 42 degree water.  Please join me to help preserve the year round catch-and-release of trophy stripers like these by supporting a cleaner Chesapeake Bay!


Posted Friday, January 29th, 2010 at 8:52 pm
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “Trophy Fish Wintering Over”

  1. Timbo says:

    Great report, really well written and of course I agree with you 100%!

  2. Tom Hughes says:

    Shawn: Thanks for posting such an outstanding article. It’s alwasy good to see 10″ soft plastic baits catching stripers. Tell Jamie I said hi next time out.

  3. jumbo1 says:

    Shawn….great trip as usual..really enjoy fishing with you…..you are welocme on the “predator” any time…..

  4. jumbo1 says:

    Shawn….great trip as usual..really enjoy fishing with you…..you are welcome on the “predator” any time…..

  5. jumbo1 says:

    How come your picture is bigger than mine?

  6. Shawn says:

    Heh heh…. editorial license! Thanks for the trip, Jamie. Must have been Wednesday!

  7. Dennis says:

    Shawn…well written I have noticed many of the changes you mentioned and agree with all you said….except you know that fish I caught was at least 54″ and probably 70 lbs….LOL…enjoyed meeting and fishing with you


  8. Peltz says:

    Messages sent regarding The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 (H.R. 3852/S. 1816)to my representatives. I encourage everyone to take 15 minutes and send your representatives a note.

  9. jumbo1 says:

    Dennis I was thinking the same thing about your fish but I didn’t want shawns fish to sound small………LOL

  10. Shawn says:

    That must have been the one I knocked off before Dennis got it in the boat, yuk yuk. Hope we can duplicate that trip this week!

    Peltz – Thanks very much!

  11. Creig says:

    Notice you got a new sponsor posted. Judge yachts??

  12. Don says:


    I was driving home last Saturday, and at one point was heading directly into the full moon, which made me think “I’ll bet Shawn is out there just slaying them again. I’ll bet a new report will appear shortly.” Sure enough, another great report! Thanks for taking the time to share, and I’m glad its heating up.

    As for Senate bill S. 1816 and House Bill H.R. 3852, I’ll get with my wife/first mate on this one, and we’ll team up and send a letter. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the man-made global warming thing, but something is happening. There is a warming trend going on, which I believe to be caused mostly by the sun and other natural cycles. One thing we do have some control over is the amount of agricultural runoff in the bay. The warmer waters coupled with the algae blooms are really doing a number on the bay in the summer. Thanks also for the heads up on these two proposals.


  13. Shawn says:

    Good comments, Don. I don’t think you have to believe in global warming to realize the Bay is getting warmer, for whatever reason. This has been one of the coldest winters in years, but if you look at the long term trend, water temperatures are still relatively warm for February. Thanks for writing.

  14. Thanks to Shawn, Peltz, & Don for your support of the Chesapeake Clean Water Act. This is the best opportuinty to fix what ails the Bay in a long, long time. Anglers’ voices make a big difference!

    Now if I can just get out from behind this computer and join you guys under the Bay Bridge…

    Best regards, John Page Williams
    Chesapeake Bay Foundation

  15. Shawn says:

    Thanks much, JP — And thanks for your leadership in this effort. Folks, if you haven’t already, check out John Page’s excellent article in this month’s ANGLER’S ALMANAC in Chesapeake Bay magazine. “Think You Know Your Home Waters?” is a good read for light tackle anglers.

  16. Jeff S. says:

    Great article Shawn!
    It’s strange to read it after what I believe I saw Fri.
    When ever crossing the Bay Bridge I’m sure I am not alone as I scan the waters below for any sign of life. Tide direction, diving birds, schooling fish, anglers etc.
    Well call me crazy but this past Fri at about 3 pm, north of the bridge, there was a distinct color change in the water on the Sandy Point side by the large buoy. I never have seen a water color change like that before. Looked like an outgoing tide. I would swear I saw diving birds and schooling breaking fish right on the colored water break line.
    Am I crazy? Was this wishful thinking?
    Or how possible could it have been?
    I not saying it was stripers, just schooling fish and diving birds.
    I know typically the fish should be in deep holes.

  17. Shawn says:

    Not calling you crazy at all, Jeff. Although I haven’t seen it myself, this is the third report of breaking fish north of the bridge in the past couple of weeks. I think it was indeed stripers. I know there are juvenile fish in the area, and there is still lots of small baitfish near the surface. They gotta eat sometime.

    I haven’t been out as much this winter as the past, but February has been a good month at the Bridge both for young fish and the occasional wintering-over hog. I sincerely appreciate the report.

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