Back when I was a kid tramping through the woods of East Tennessee, I looked for the underground dens of rabbits, chipmunks and woodchucks.  Now days, I’m stalking fish instead of varmints, but I’m still hunting for hidey-holes.  It’s the time of year when Chesapeake Bay striped bass hunker down in deep, warm-water hideouts.  It takes patience and persistence to catch them but if you aggravate them long enough, you can sometimes get them to bite. The trollers are still picking off a few big cows around the channels, but it’s tough to get isolated fish on a jig.  From now until the first of the year I’ll be fishing around the bridges and in the deeper water around other submerged structure looking for holed-up rockfish.

Water temperatures in the Maryland section of the Bay are now in the mid 40s.  Most of the migratory fish have already passed through the Bay and are well south of us in the warmer waters of the ocean.  There are reports of good catches from Ocean City, Maryland south to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  It will be a few weeks before the warm water discharges start consistently producing big fish, so I’m jigging close to home looking for pockets of warm water wherever I can find them.

I almost took a skunk when I ran south Friday night, and should have except I moved on to a school of dinks and caught one just to see if I still could. I fished both sides of the channel from Bloody Point down to Chesapeake Beach finding hundreds of infrequently-diving gannets but no schooled up rockfish of any size.  The only bright spot is that there are still some schools of one year old fish here and there breaking on bay anchovies.

Saturday I launched at Matapeake and fished the area around the Bay Bridge.  I found some fish relating to an underwater hump just north of the bridge. There weren’t many and they were very picky, holding in a small area in what I think was a warm water zone just on the back side of the structure.  Since they were tucked in so tight, it was really hard to get my jig in the strike zone.

As you can tell by my GPS tracks, I probably made thirty or forty drifts and only caught two keepers. I could see them down there laughing at me, and it wasn’t until I sized down to a 4″ pink soft plastic jig on a orange and chartreuse Fischadler jig head that I tricked a few into biting. In two and a half hours of fishing, I only caught two keeper-size fish, but they were both fat and strong. I had one big fish on but it got off, probably foul hooked. There was a scale the size of a quarter on my jig when I reeled it in.  

Despite the cold and windy conditions this weekend, I couldn’t fish some of my favorite spots because there were several fishermen on the water.  A lot of guys are trying to get in a couple of last fishing trips before stowing their boats for the winter. I talked to a couple of brave guys fishing out of kayaks Saturday who told me they read CLT and said they caught a few. I also saw a few little fish, maybe perch, caught around the Bay Bridge rock piles.  Well defined pycnoclines are clearly evident on my sonar and we should keep fish in the area unless we get a lot of fresh water coming down from the rivers to flush them out.

Negotiating through incessant December winds and a hectic 24 hour on-call work schedule, I’ll still be hunting the hidey-holes around Kent Island when I have time, and I may sneak in a trip or two to the ocean in the next couple of weeks.  Good luck if you get out and be careful out there.

Posted Monday, December 6th, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “Hidey-Holes”

  1. jumbo1 says:

    Shawn, I would say I am 1 for 2 when it comes to the criteria need for catching fish these days….I am really good at “persistence” but not to good at “patience”…great read my friend…hang in there won’t be long we will be back in the “thick” of things…

  2. der Fischadler says:

    Another excellent explanation and depiction of what’s going on underneath the boat.
    To be more specific; that’s a Fischadler jig head in one of the several custom “CLT” models. Of course they are only available to those that share the location of their hidey-holes.

  3. steve hawk says:

    I was at the east stone pile and saw you stop by
    I managed to catch six from 16″ to 24″ the would only hit the 10″ chartruse bkd hot rodded of course your fish are much better grade than what I caught. I also spoke to the kayakers I’ll try agian thrusday hope to see you out there

  4. Shawn says:

    Hey Steve — I saw someone jigging hotrodded lures there, must have been you. I usually get one or two 40 inch plus fish around there in December, but it’s usually on weekdays when I can just drift through quietly so not to spook them. When I start the engine back up I swing wide or go around the back side to drift again. Tough to do on a weekend. Glad to hear you were catching.

  5. RiverCat09 says:


    Those new electronics are simply amazing and have made quantum leaps over those of even a few years ago.

    Those look like a really healthy pair of fish that you got, good eating all the way around. Thanks for posting, thanks fo all that you have taught me, and thanks for running this site.

    Tight Lines,


  6. Mike says:


    That was our crazy a**’s out there on the yaks saturday. We had a few fish throw the trebles on our stingsilvers and I had one little guy hooked pretty bad with it. We are going to replace them with single hooks. My question for you is what hooks would you use? I hope we didn’t didnt push you off your spot there with our little intrusion that afternoon. Thanks again for all the advice youve given on the site.

    – Mike

  7. Shawn says:

    Thanks for the comments. Hey Mike, replace them with 4/0 Mustad O’Shaghnessy hooks. They sell them at BPS, probably other places. While you’re there, pick up some feathers and thread. You can dress those hooks up in a couple of minutes. Just seal the thread with super glue, and you’ve got an awesome jig. If you get tired of paying 4.00 each for stingsilvers, just get some 2 ounce inline sinkers and pound them flat with a hammer. You’ll end up with less than a buck each in the lures.

    You guys didn’t push me at all. I hooked that big fish while you were there, sure would’ve like to have seen it. I was right over the drop-off, you can see the contour lines on my GPS. They were at 23′ right where it came up. That’s a pretty good pattern for that spot from late October to mid-December.

  8. Mike says:

    I’ll defintily try making some of my own. And thanks for the hook advice. Also, ive been trying to find a moderately priced -150$ jigging casting rod with all the requirements you’ve listed on the rod selection article. any brands you would suggest?

  9. Shawn says:

    In that price range, I’d go with Powell Max. I’m having Billy at Shore Tackle rebuild my Powell now because I like the blank so much. I could just send it back to the company and they would give me a new one free, but it’s worth the money to me to hold on to that original blank. I’d get the 6’8″ medium XF or you could go with the medium-hvy. It has been the best rod I’ve ever owned. Talk to Tony at Tochterman’s and don’t let him talk you into something else. Otherwise, in the 100.00 range I like St. Croix Mojo Bass or BPS Carbonlite. The next rod I plan to try will be Powell Endurance Series.

  10. steve hawk says:

    thanks for the insite on the no motor noise . I”ll be working the area thursday evening.
    I was worried about the kayakers they told me he took on water and got wet from the winds. I would not want to be wet at these temps

  11. Mike says:

    Steve i dont know if it was us that you spoke to or not. We took water into the kayak but it drains right out with the scuppers just as it would in any other boat, but more so that usual is what i meant. We were actually pretty warm, other than our toes, and neither of us got our bodys wet at all other than a little spray in the face. We are pretty well sealed from any water even in the event that we go into the water overhead. We’ve also got vhf, handwarmers, and a change of clothes. I appreciate your concern and if we ever look like were seriously struggling don’t hesitate to check on us. Those were defintily the worst conditions we’d be remotely comfortable in though.
    Shawn, i noticed the mojo doesnt come in an XF and the XF on the carbonlite is only on a midheavy. Have any experience with the All Star ASR it comes in a medium 6’9” XF? ill probably end up with some BPS gift cards for xmas so i’d probably go with something from there right now although ill probably grab a powell at some point as well.

  12. Shawn says:

    Yeah, I have the fast/med versions of both those rods. I don’t have experience with the All Star ASR although I have used All Star rods in the past and liked them. I don’t use rods with cork in front of the handle for jigging because I think it insulates you against sensitivity.

  13. Alan J. says:

    What do you think about custom made rods? Worth the extra money?

  14. Shawn says:

    Lifted from an article I wrote about chosing the right rod:

    There are some custom rod makers that turn out excellent rods. Some are absolutely beautiful with intricate designs and personalized detail. The advantage of a custom rod is that it can be designed to your exact specifications. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from investing in a quality custom made rod, but remember, just because a rod is “custom made” doesn’t mean it’s high quality. Materials can vary greatly between rod makers and you usually get what you pay for. Some custom rod makers use very cheap handles, guides, etc, while others use nothing but the best stuff on the market. As with all fishing equipment, let the buyer beware. Check things out carefully and talk to people you respect before investing hundreds of dollars in any rod.

    If you’re considering an investment in a custom rod, I think it’s wise to experiment with off-the-rack rods for a while so you know exactly how you want one built. Although some of my fishing partners swear by them, I rarely use custom rods out of respect to the rod makers. I’m hard on rods, real hard, so I frequently break tips, wear out guides, handles, etc. I don’t mind sending an abused rod back to a national chain or major manufacturer, but after a year or two, I feel like I’m taking advantage of a struggling independent rod builder when I keep asking him to repair his “lifetime warranty” rods.

  15. Dave says:

    I was the guy in the Whaler last Friday who saw you pull the dink to not get skunked. I guess I should not have been shocked, but it was the only fish we saw all day. See you out there again, and thanks for all of the insight.

  16. Shawn says:

    Ha ha… man, you can’t get away with anything around this place. Glad my story checked out. Nice seeing you out there Dave. You guys were pretty hardcore as well in that chop. Thanks for saying hello.

  17. Daniel says:

    That St. Croix rod is one of the best for the money. I swear the more fish you boat on a rod blank, especially when jigging, the more sensitve it becomes; like a dang baseball glove. I’m sure those blanks wear out, but one season at CBBT and that Mojo was money. At least that’s what I think…At the same time, you can tell in about 5 min. on the water whether or not a rod blank is gonna work or not.

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