The good news is that those migratory fish I talked about last week – you know, the ones that sneak in through the C&D canal every October – well, they’re here.  Since last Tuesday, reports of big, clean fish with sea lice have been flooding in. The bad news is that the Upper Chesapeake Bay is still so murky that those big stripers are moving quickly down the channel searching for cleaner water and more plentiful bait fish.  They haven’t gone too far south, but they have bypassed the northern humps and ledges where we’ve found them in years past.  The ugly part is that, since those fish showed up in some very accessible high-traffic areas, word got out quickly and a bite that traditionally lasts until the end of October shut down in just a few days. At the end of last week, fishing was very good, but soon hoards of inexperienced fishermen, some with screaming kids, running engines, and blaring radios, descended on an area that is shorter and narrower than a football field. That caused the fish to hunker down and become very difficult to catch. Difficult, but not impossible.  It’s been a tough week, but there are trophy stripers in our area right now, and fishing is sure to improve as more and more migratory fish enter the Chesapeake.

I don’t have a lot of time to file a report this week, but I got out a few times last weekend.  I spent Saturday touring the Bay with my brother Michael and his wife Brandi.  We couldn’t fish in the morning, and they had an early evening flight back to Tennessee, so we spent a few mid-afternoon hours touring Annapolis harbor before circling back to cruise around Kent Island.  Along the way we stopped at some well-known locations and somehow managed to catch fish despite heavy weekend crowds. Brandi reeled in her first Chesapeake Bay rockfish beneath the shadow of Thomas Point Lighthouse.  She followed it with several bluefish inside Eastern Bay, and even managed to catch a rare October hickory shad on her 3-inch Li’l Bunker jig.  Hickory shad aren’t unheard of this time of year, but it’s still a treat to see them.

I got up before dawn Sunday morning and fought the crowds for a few hours. I had some nice fish right after sunrise, but by 9:00 AM there were 17 boats packed into a very small fishing spot.  I fish this area every October, but I’ve never seen so much piling on. I gave up and went home to mow the yard.  By 5:00 PM my chores were done and the crowds had thinned, so I got back out with Jamie and Rich.  We caught a lot of fish including four or five over thirty inches, but they didn’t come easy.  It took dyed and heavily scented plastics coupled with very light jig heads and an extremely soft touch to coax the fish into striking.

I tried again before dark Monday evening and fishing was even tougher.  The crowds were back.  I don’t blame anyone for trying to get in on the big fish bite, and I always enjoy seeing my friends out there on the water, but a dozen boats on one fishing spot sure makes catching tough. It’s silly to complain. I’m in the business of promoting light tackle fishing and this is certainly a light tackle/artificial bait bite. Hopefully, the less experienced fishermen will watch and learn so they don’t make  the same mistakes again and spook the fish. Except for a few Sunday morning idiots, everyone has been very well-mannered and respectful to their fellow anglers.  Also, as far as I know, no one has burned the spot on the internet.  We’ll see how long that lasts!

This week I expect more big fish to show up.  Unless we get a lot more rain, water quality in the Upper Bay should steadily improve.  I also expect to hear of big fish farther south as resident rockfish move out of the rivers and ocean stripers move in from the Atlantic.  There is unsettled weather in the forecast, so that should shake things up a little and make fishing even better.  If I get out again this week, I’ll go back to throwing topwater plugs in the shallows and working inside the rivers, but I’ll also be watching the humps and ledges closely.  Hang in there.  The fish are sure to spread out so we won’t be tripping over each other much longer. The pattern is changing, but water temperatures are still in the mid-60s and we’re just on the leading edge of the fall migratory bite. When it breaks, we should have a few weeks of wide-open fishing.


Posted Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 at 2:23 am
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly”

  1. uncle phill says:

    Great report/comments!

    Retirement is treating Rich waaay too good. Slimmer, tanner, traveling all around the world and always holding up big fish!

  2. Steve F says:

    It was good seeing you out there Sunday and YES there are some guys that need to know about turning off their motors. We ended up catching about 35 fish and Bill caught the biggest at 35″ but Travis had to boat the fish (long story). Glad you guys got into some nice fish but it will not take long before the word gets out, but after seeing all the boats Saturday and Sunday I think it already did. I don’t like crowds but what are you going to do when that is the only game in town.

  3. Robertson says:

    I am very curious to know how many of those boats were there because they heard about it, or just because they saw other boats there and moved in.

    In any case – sunday morning was crazy.

  4. RiverCat09 says:


    Thanks for the post. I agree totally about the running engines. I will go past a know productive structure, especially a shallow water one, if I see someone there with his motor running. I will consider the spot toasted and will move on. Keep up the good work!


  5. Shawn says:

    I’m sure there were a lot of people who saw the crowds and came over to check out the commotion. I don’t think we can fault anyone. We all have networks and people we fish with, it’s just that some networks must be bigger than others. I just think it’s interesting how quickly word spread even though it never showed up as a specific location on the listserves. I hope that means people have learned something about spot burning.

    When I looked this morning there were no boats there, so it went from zero to sixty and back to zero in less than a week. I think those fish are still around, they’re just hunkered down and very hard to catch now.

    Steve, you guys were doing all the catching Sunday morning. At one point I counted ten fish come over the side of your boat and at the same time I didn’t see a single one caught on the other sixteen boats. That includes me! I saw Travis land that fish for Bill. That’s even funnier that it was a personal best. I had some good fish early, but I had a hard time once the fleet arrived. I figured it out though and hit the tackle shop before my trip back out Sunday evening. We hit them pretty good then.

    Phill, you’re right. I’m getting tired of Rich showing up with a smile on his face, catching the biggest fish, then going home with a shit eating grin. What’s that thing Jamie does? Blocking? Maybe I need to try that!

    Good thinking, Don. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Jeremy G. says:

    Where are you fishing and do you think they would take an eel or a spot?

  7. Bill M says:

    I think the easy access and visibility played a big part in the crowd Sunday. And it was a nice day. More people need to go to church Sunday mornings!

    Glad you were able to coax some fish Sunday evening. Great seeing you in the morning.

    Good comments and information. I always learn something from your reads.

  8. Chris says:

    Saw y’all put a few over the side last night. We only found dinks. My buddy from SC couldn’t quite master LTJ but lusted after your boat.

    p.s. I meant to thank Rich for his advice about getting fake knees last night.

  9. jumbo1 says:

    Blocking is an art SK…we will owrk on it next time we fish….good read

  10. jumbo1 says:

    I meant “work” on it (Grin)

  11. Roger T says:

    Thank god for sick days,I aint going nowhere near that place on weekends.
    I don’t handle crowds well,that guy trolling around me a couple times was bad enough but the frustrated look on his face as he sped off was priceless.

  12. Andrew says:

    Lol at your last post Shawn!

  13. Thomas W says:

    I Love the Point you made about the motors running. It always scares the fish away.

  14. Gitzit2 says:

    great read, Shawn.
    good to see you out there sunday.
    it was, indeed, a crazy weekend.
    we fished both days with Steve, Phill & Bill you are right….they certainly put on a clinic.

    hopefully those who are a bit less experienced at close quarters fishing can pick up a few tips from your article and from observing.

    tight lines

  15. Daniel Kimbro says:

    Could you provide me with the GPS Coordinates, surface temp, water salinity, and tidal conditions of the area you’re fishing, as well as the line size/type, lure size/type, rod/reel combination, and your drift strategy? Thanks.

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