fall fishing

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I may have found the best fishing spot in the Chesapeake Bay. I discovered it completely by accident a few years ago. I was zig-zagging across some ledges in the Mid-Bay when I saw something on my fish finder that looked like a miniature underwater forest. My first thought was that I was seeing small tree trunks or the remains of fence posts coming up from the bottom. Then I thought maybe I was seeing a shipwreck, but the more I explored the area, the more it became apparent that my sonar was pinging over more natural structure. I was seeing the sonar returns of oysters, and lots of them.

When oysters are left to grow, they form highly complex and irregular reefs. This is a result of the natural reproduction process by which larvae is set onto existing shells. These new shells clump together with older ones, and grow upward toward the surface. When the reefs go unharvested, they grow into mounds or plumes. When they’re left alone for a long time, the mounds can reach the surface of the water and be visible at low tides. In regions where oysters are plentiful, they call these mounds “oyster rocks.” That’s a term you don’t hear too much in Maryland because there aren’t any oyster rocks left.  Read More!

One of the more frequently asked questions I get whether by email or in person is, “How can I consistently catch bigger fish?”  I’ve written about moving your game up to the next level before, but since we now have some migratory stripers in the Maryland part of the Chesapeake Bay, it’s worthwhile to address it again.  The learning curve gets a little shorter in the fall and it’s a great chance to sharpen your skills. I’ll start by saying there are no hard and fast rules for catching stripers.  Over my years of casting for them I feel like I’ve honed my techniques so that, on any given day, I have an edge for catching a trophy.  That said, I’m still frequently surprised when a huge striper is caught by some completely different method than I’ve seen before.  One thing is for sure, things change. There’s no substitute for experience but anglers who aren’t willing to stay on top of the latest innovations and newest techniques are certain to be left behind.  Read More!

Fishermen are gear heads.  Most of the anglers I know spend hours analyzing the features of a good fish finder and studying the differences between mono and fluorocarbon. We pride ourselves on being equipped with the best gear available. Unfortunately, some fishermen miss the most important tool in the light tackle arsenal. It isn’t the perfect rod or the most effective lure and it isn’t a bad ass boat or ultra-sensitive sonar. Good fishermen know that the most critical piece of equipment to successful fishing on the Chesapeake Bay is a good network of fishing buddies.

There’s nothing more important than friends on the water.  The information you receive from fishing buddies can keep you updated on productive areas to fish and tune you in to prevailing patterns. They can keep you informed during times when you aren’t able to fish. For example, due to work restrictions and time spent on conservation efforts, I haven’t fished too much over the past couple of weeks, but thanks to my network of fishing buddies I have very good information about the most productive areas and depths to fish.  My friends have kept me in the loop so when I go out tomorrow morning, I’m pretty sure I can find fish. When I get back, I’ll return the favor by letting them know how I did.  That’s how it works. Read More!

We’ve caught some very nice fish on Thunder Road over the past couple of weeks.  Whether in the shallows or on the ledges, it’s fall on the Chesapeake Bay and time for trophy striped bass.

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!

So far, it’s been a disappointing fall for Chesapeake Bay striper fishing.  There are a few fish to be caught, but it usually takes a lot of time and fuel dollars to find them.  I spent a few minutes last night going over my logs from the past four years.  This November’s fishing has been the poorest I’ve seen since I started fishing the Chesapeake.  I think there are several reasons, first and foremost is lack of bait.  We already know that menhaden have been over-harvested to the point where they are only a small fraction of what they should be, and we know that striped bass populations are down, but I think our biggest problem this fall is fresh water.

Last week, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported big problems with Upper Bay oysters. As part of a Bay-wide survey, biologists collected samples from 15 individual oyster bars north of the Bay Bridge. In the four northernmost bars along the Eastern Shore, oysters suffered a cumulative mortality of 79 percent, with no live oysters on the two northernmost bars. The few live oysters that were found in upper Bay bars were in poor condition — bloated, watery and translucent — and mortalities may continue for some time.   Biologists believe the high mortality was caused by the lack of salinity in the upper Bay from March through July, 2011.  During that period many  modern day records were broken for high flow and low salinity.  Read More!

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!  ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Is there anything more dramatic than an October sky? If I had my way there would be an eternal high tide, a full moon every night, and the skies would always glow like they do in Autumn. There’s a chill in the Chesapeake air tonight, signaling that fall is here and October fishing has begun. Just like they have the past three years in a row, bigger fish have arrived in the shallows of the mid and upper Bay. The pattern hasn’t changed from last week:  topwater plugs in the shallows are still producing, but the exciting difference is that now there are significantly more 30-inch rockfish in the mix. Nothing beats big stripers exploding on surface plugs beneath the technicolor skies of October. Read More!