Sunday, September 30, 2012

The fishing dentist, Dr. Julie Ball, says most species are biting

From the lower Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Beach area, our saltwater expert Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) says the fishing will be fine from here on. “With some great weather on the horizon, anglers will surely be on the go. And with the sizzling billfish bite offshore and excellent inshore prospects, folks should have no problem finding some action,” she points out.

Dr. Julie says fishing is fine. Just about all the species are biting.
Julie says as cobias continue to move out of the Bay, sight casters are finding decent action using eels and jigs. Anglers are also finding nice fish hanging around lower Bay and inshore buoys. Small pods of cobia are also surfacing along the ocean front. Chummers are having some good luck with keeper-sized fish along the lower Bay shoals and off False Cape lately.

Julie also says that flounder action is steady in the lower Bay. This is the best time of year for drifters, who are catching nice flatfish while sweeping the edges of shoals and channels with strip baits. The Baltimore and Thimble Shoal Channels, and the Hampton Bar are productive areas. Those working lower Bay structure with jigs are also scoringon decent fish, especially from the 3rd island area. Flounder are also available on inshore and offshore wrecks. Tautogs are beginning to bite inside the Chesapeake Bay. Specimens averaging 3 to 6 pounds are going for fiddler crabs along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s tubes and structure. Good sheepshead action continues in these same areas, where fish up to 10-pounds are mixed in, along with triggerfish.

The big red drum bite continues to spread throughout the lower Bay and coastal waters. Reds ranging up to over 54-inches are still providing action along the breakers of the Eastern Shore barrier islands and inlets, as well as along the span of the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, especially near the artificial islands. Intermittent catches of bulls are also beginning to occur in the surf off Sandbridge and off the Beach.

The newest fall species will be back in business when the Bay’s striped bass season opens on Thursday, the 4th of October. Schoolies will take top water plugs at all the bridge tunnel complexes, especially at night in the light lines. Anglers will be able to keep two fish per person ranging from 18 to 28-inches. One of the two fish can be 28-inches or larger.

The fall offshore billfish action is still wide open, with lots of opportunities for multiple marlin releases. Some boats are releasing anywhere from 10 to 25 fish. White marlin are the main event, with a few blue marlin and scattered sailfish and spearfish in the mix. Swordfish action is on the upswing. For more information, go to www.drjball.com

Friday, September 28, 2012

What a difference even a small decline in temperature can make

Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski with a "cool weather" bass
You’ve seen Marty Magone’s and Andy Andrzejewski’s names on this web site many times over the past 15 months or so and there’s a good reason. Besides being close personal friends, those two fellows also are bonafide human fishing machines. They’ll venture out on the hottest and the coldest days of the year.
  
It didn't take long before Marty thought he needed to shield his face
whenever the powerful bass boat was running along 

While I’m away, Andy will take up the slack to provide decent material for our web page. He’s a professional bass fishing guide and as far as I’m concerned, he has no peer. Marty is a super fisherman and a guy who’s game for just about 
anything. So it wasn't a surprise when the two went out on the first truly cool day of the new autumn. To be sure, the temperatures would warm up later in the day, but in the early daylight hours the clothing of the day pointed to jackets and warm hats, even wind-shielding face masks.

Marty Magone with a bass, wearing a jacket (USMC, of course)
“The fall morning showed water temps to be in the high 60s,” wrote Marty. “As you can see one of us needed face protection. We threw crankbaits and tubes tallying 10 bass, one  white perch and a pumpkinseed sunfish.The winds blew at around 15 mph out of the southwest, so we stayed in the Mattawoman Creek area. We had bluebird skies and the air was refreshing. In all, not a bad day.”
Just what did that pumpkinseed sunfish think it was going to do with that bass lure?



Thursday, September 27, 2012

CCA MD calls on state's DNR to clean up the commercial mess

The Coastal Conservation Association Maryland (CCA MD) has called upon its members to contact Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary John Griffin asking that the commercial industry be held accountable for the costs of its fishery.
 
The DNR is developing a report to the General Assembly in which it will recommend ways to cover a $1.6 million shortfall in its Fisheries Service. The Assembly is expected to act on the recommendations in the coming session.

“The commercial industry has created a fiscal mess through illegal gill nets and continued oyster poaching [over] the past two years,” said Tony Friedrich, CCA MD executive director. “These actions have resulted in increased enforcement costs for DNR and contributed greatly to the shortfall, let alone brought damage to fisheries. Now is the time to hold the commercial industry accountable.”

CCA MD asked members to make four points in communicating with Griffin:

• The commercial industry must be held accountable for the full cost of managing its fishery, including added enforcement costs associated with illegal gill nets, striped bass fishery management issues, and never-ending oyster poaching;

• The Department must recommend that the shortfall be covered by either cuts in programs for the commercial sector, higher fees for commercial fishing, or a combination of both;

• General funds must not be shifted or wrongly allocated to make up for the commercial  industry’s refusal to pay its own way; and

• Conservation and water quality programs that benefit all of Maryland’s citizens must not be cut to cover the commercial industry’s shortfall.

“It’s time to hold commercial fishermen responsible for the mess their industry has created,” said executive director, Friedrich.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chesapeake Bay's fish are plentiful, but where are the anglers?

Tackle Box owner Ken Lamb caught rockfish
Tackle Box store owner Ken Lamb says rockfish are breaking in the mornings at the mouth of the Patuxent River from Little Cove Point to Cedar Point. There are small blues and stripers in the Cedar Point Hollow,  with big rockfish under the small stuff just waiting for someone to present a jig to them. The shallows to the sides of the river mouth are good for stripers, trout, puppy drum and bluefish, but not many fishermen appear to be getting out.

"We had one monster bluefish of 19 pounds come into the Tackle Box that blew up on a surface lure at Cedar Point this past week. That is the biggest blue we have seen in decades. In the '70s and '80s such blues were as common as mosquitoes,” reports Ken. By the way, the big “choppers” are mostly below the Target Ship in the Mud Leads.

Sea trout, rockfish and puppy drum are in the shallows in the mouths of creeks and thoroughfares on the Eastern Shore side of the Chesapeake Bay from the northern entrances to the Honga River to the southern tip of Smith Island (and probably most everywhere else, too). The redfish run in sizes from 13 to 22 inches. The minimum required size of 18 inches is regularly hooked, so a single, precious keeper can be brought home for supper.

Johnny Caldwell with a 19-lb., 37-inch-long bluefish
“On a trip with Capt. Brady Bounds on the ‘Miss Lena’ last Thursday we caught many dozens of rockfish (about half keepers), puppy drum, and bluefish, but only one speckled trout. The following day, Capt. Brady (301-904-0471) took another party to the same spots and caught dozens of trout, puppy drum and bluefish, but only one keeper rockfish.  Capt. Brady specializes in light tackle lure-casting in shallow water,” said Ken.

There are excellent catches of stripers, puppy drum and some spotted sea trout in the Potomac River from the Route 301 Bridge downstream to Point Lookout. Make sure to check out all the holes and edges of the tributary creeks. Ken also said that the trolling on the Virginia side in deep water was unproductive in the heat of summer, but should be improving daily now that the temperatures have gone down somewhat, especially in the water. The temperatures have been falling almost a degree a day. By the time you read this it will be at 70 degrees. Ken says the rockfish activity increases exponentially with each degree downward.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Waterfowling has begun in Maryland as teal season is under way

Dr. Jack Scanlon with a brace of teal
Our friend Dr. Jack Scanlon sent us a welcome note: "Just to let you know that waterfowling has begun with the special early teal season in Maryland. Both blue and greenwing teal can be shot starting at sunrise. Season runs through this Saturday 9/29. Bluewings may soon be gone with these cold morning temperatures. Nice to be on the marsh again with gun, decoys and dog . Fishing starting to pick up as well. Got into some nice [Chesapeake Bay] rockfish in the shallows on structure using top-water baits. Nothing huge but quality fish. It's exciting to watch the crashing strike of a grown up striper on a popper!"

Thanks, Dr. Jack. It was good hearing from you and seeing that you had a brace of teal that most likely graced your table.

Hunter/Angler expenditures carry an impressive economic clout

A coalition of hunting and angling groups and the outdoor industry briefed members of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus recently regarding the rise in hunting and fishing participation in this country. The groups, led by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Cabela's, Safari Club International, American Sportfishing Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association, used recently released data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey on Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation to compare hunting and fishing participation and expenditures to mainstream industries. 

"To put it in perspective, the 37 million sportsmen and women over the age of 16 in America is the same as the population of the state of California, and the $90 billion they spent in 2011 is the same as the global sales of Apple's iPad and iPhone in the same year," said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. "Hunting and fishing have been, and clearly continue to be, important elements of our country's outdoor heritage and they are critically important to our nation's economy -- particularly the small local economies that support quality hunting and fishing opportunities."

From equipment expenditures ($8.2 billion for hunters, $6.2 billion for anglers) to special equipment ($25 billion towards boats, RVs, ATVs and other such vehicles) to trip-related expenses totaling over $32 billion, sportsmen and women continue to direct their discretionary income toward their outdoor pursuits.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

This fellow believes that a 9-bass day amounts to poor fishing

Marty Magone self portrait
My friend Marty Magone lives in Bracey, Va., and whenever he's not fishing up on the tidal Potomac River, he drops a line into his home waters, the massive Lake Gaston on the Virginia/Carolina border.

So the other day, he sent a short
message saying he didn't have much to report. "[Only] nine bass up to 3 pounds on topwater poppers or a crankbait. The lake basically put me in my place.," he wrote.

Marty enclosed a self portrait holding one of his bass and I wanted to tell him that there have been days on Lake Gaston for me and others when we would have paid hard cash to find nine bass. The lake can be an up/down body of water. Some days are dynamite; other days are like somebody dynamited the lake. So, nine bass ain't bad, Marty! We all have had much worse days.

Lower Bay and nearby Atlantic promise great fall fishing this week

Our favorite lady angling expert, Dr. Julie Ball, says big red drum (channel bass), some exceeding 50 inches, are schooling in the lower Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic’s coastal waters. Surf and pier anglers are finding fish in the surf along the Eastern Shore barrier islands and inlets, while boaters are still finding good catches of big reds near the 3rd island of the CBBT as well as near buoys 36 and 38 off Cape Charles. Peeler crabs, bunker, and chunks of hard crabs are working well as these fish fatten up for their migration south next month.

A great shot of a leaping white marlin by Dr. Ken Neill
King mackerel are showing some promise this week, with a few fish boated just off Sandbridge and the occasional Spanish mackerel and false albacore strikes that are experienced close to the beach. A hook-up with a large shark is also still a possibility in these same areas, says Julie.

When anglers can get out and the water is clear, the fall flounder scene is good. Nice keepers, with many ranging from 5 to 7 pounds are taking jigs, as well as both live and drifted bait along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel structure and drop-offs, with the high rise area, and the 3rd and 4th islands producing the best lately.

Big hardheads are responding from the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel to the Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The lower Bay inlets are also holding lots of nice croakers right now. Schoolie rockfish are hitting lures all over the lower Bay, and will become more active as the water temperature drops. Nice sheepshead are also still active along the bridge-tunnel, along with a with mix of triggerfish and tautog.

Amberjack enthusiasts continue to catch nice fish on offshore wrecks and at the South Tower. Deep droppers were finding decent catches around the canyon edges before the blow this week, including nice blueline tilefish, black bellied rosefish, small grouper, and scattered barrelfish.

Billfish are providing good action, with many boats reporting up to 10 releases, or more. Julie says that the offshore boats encounter very good numbers of white marlin, along with scattered blue marlin, as well as the occasional sailfish and spearfish. Yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna and dolphin are also available, and wahoo should continue to pick up through October. For more information, go to www.drjball.com

Friday, September 21, 2012

Trout and redfish on light tackle can be a joy on the Chesapeake

Keith McGuire and a tasty dinner of trout and redfish  

Keith McGuire, who hails from  Mechanicsville, Md., is holding up his 19-inch red drum and an equally large spotted sea trout. Keith came out of Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek and crossed the Chesapeake Bay, heading toward the waters surrounding Smith Island where he jigged lures with light tackle. He decided to keep those two fish to prepare a delicious dinner. (Photo by Christy Henderson)                                              

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the tidal Potomac, there are species to conquer besides bass

Marty Magone with a Chinese snakehead that slammed a crankbait.
Fishing pals, Andy Andrzejewski and Marty Magone, went onto the upper tidal Potomac this week and proved for the umpteenth time that a variety of species is possible even when you use just one or two bass lures.

The licensed bass fishing guide, Andy, whose ad you see on this page, nailed the chunky catfish (below) on a spinnerbait. He's using a plastic gripper to hold the fish. The boys caught bass, a snakehead, catfish and a striper.

Andy Andrzejewski and a possible evening dinner.
Have you spent any time fishing under the Wilson Bridge? It can pay off.
 By the way, if you recall our story about a super productive lure known as the Bandit Flat Maxx, my pal Marty saw to it that the treble hooks on the one he was using were mangled by a fish. "I gave him another Bandit 
Flat Maxx," said Andy, who found some. "I didn't want to, but Marty is a friend and he needed a new lure. What could I do?"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Remember us asking about the name of a super productive lure?

Do you recall us asking web site visitors if they knew who manufactured a particular bass fishing crankbait that was used by our partner Marty Magone on a day when he could do nothing wrong as long as he cranked this particular medium-depth diver? The lure showed no identifying letters or marks, as some do.

The Bandit Flat Maxx is no longer a mystery
We had readers respond by e-mail and on the web site. An old friend from way back wrote, "It's a Big-O." Another said it looked to be a Rapala of some type. Then came one that figured it had to be a lure known as a Bandit.

Bass fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski went to work, searching catalogues and web sites and, sure enough, he found it. "It's a Bandit Flat Maxx," said Andy, then kind of suggested tongue-in-cheek that he wished he'd never given it to Marty. Oh, well. (By the way, later Andy found several other Bandit Flat Maxx lures that he didn't even know he had.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Chesapeake Bay's fall fishing is under way says Ken Lamb

Dallas Hill landed this young cobia while trolling for bluefish
Fall fishing is under way with Spanish mackerel, rockfish, channel bass, bluefish, white perch, speckled trout, straggler croakers and spot, and an occasional cobia, says the Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb down in Lexington Park. “The baitfish are plentiful and the water temperature and salinity is just right to keep all these fish here and eager to bite,” adds Ken.
Larry Jarboe with a fine catfish from Indian Creek

He also points out that schools of rockfish, mackerel and blues were on the rip at Cedar Point (Patuxent River) over the weekend. Huge numbers of birds were diving and feeding on the baitfish that were driven to the surface.  Trollers using spoons and planers caught a fine mix all day. Lure casters did well too, but had to use some gasoline to chase them. The trolling now is more consistent. The Spanish mackerel and bluefish are farther south in Cedar Point Hollow, also across the Chesapeake Bay from Hooper's Island north to the Bay Bridges --- the fishing is that good.

Spotted sea trout in the 18 to 20 inch range and rockfish (striped bass) of the same size  are up the Potomac in the shallows around St. George’s Island hitting jig heads fitted with chartreuse Gulp minnow bodies.
Billy Moran, John Owens, and Lowell and Scott Collins with Potomac "cats"
Rockfish, blues, and keeper channel bass are in the mouth of St. Jerome's Creek. Bottom fishermen using peeler of soft crab have done very well there.

If you can find a few Norfolk spot to be used as bait you’ll be able to hook stripers at the Gas Dock perimeter. We may see some early ocean arrivals soon for umbrella rig trollers who work the Ship's Channel. “Our first 40-inch fall striper is usually seen by the first of October,” said Ken.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Look how some are scoring on blues in St. Mary's County, Md.

 Travis Shelton and a stash of bluefish
                                       (Photo by Christy Henderson)


If you plan to fish the Maryland portions of the Chesapeake Bay, it is generally agreed that during most seasons the Southern Maryland parts of the Bay produce the best catches. Not that other areas won't turn up fish --- they do. But with the exception of certain springtime spawning runs by anadromous fish species, over the long haul, a large stretch of water between St. Mary's County and the state's Eastern Shore turns up the most consistent catches.

Ask Northern Virginian Travis Shelton and his pal Wayne Zink. The two left Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek (you can reach it by heading south on Rte. 5 to the town of Ridge) and they headed into the Bay.

Let the picture speak for itself. It shows Travis and a pile of bluefish, along with Spanish mackerel, that he and Wayne hooked, using light spinning tackle. Does it get any better than that?

By the way, the size of these bluefish is best for filleting and frying or baking, even marinating in a brine of salt and brown sugar, then putting them on the racks of a smoker.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sometimes it takes a certain kind of lure to score on bass and ...

Marty Magone hammered the bass.
It all began when three of us decided to give the tidal Potomac a working-over. I had come to town to visit my pals Andy Andrzejewski and Marty Magone (along with Dale and Nancy Knupp and all the others I used to hang around with) and the river beckoned mightily.

Marty, who sometimes is known as the Scuppernong Weighmaster (a.k.a. Scuppy) started the parade when Andy dropped the trolling motor of his 22-footer over the bow and Marty quickly nailed a young bass on a topwater lure inside Quantico Creek.

Then Andy followed suit, sticking the hook to another juvenile largemouth while I sat in the skunk seat with nothing to show for my repeated casts with a surface lure, a Chatterbait, a wacky-rigged worm and a Baby 1-Minus crankbait. It was like a bad dream. My partners would find an occasional young bass while I wondered why the fish gods had deserted me.

Andy Andrzejewski prepares to let a bass go.
So it went until Andy decided the catches didn't come fast enough and he moved to a nearby spot that in the past always produced action. However, the Baby Ragetail craws didn't do much in the newly chosen area, nor did several other soft plastic lures that usually served well in the past.

"Time to start throwing crankbaits at these bass," said Andy and he handed a medium depth crankbait of unknown origin to Marty. I tied on a bright blue/silver model and Andy threw a KVD model that in the past was a "killer" bait. You guessed it. Marty's No-Name lure suddenly drew strike after strike. While Andy got his fair share and I landed a good bass on my crankbait, Marty quickly proved that his rod was the "hot stick."

The fellow with the crew cut hammered the bass. "I think it's a Rapala, maybe a Bagley bait of some kind," said Andy, who is a USCG-licensed fishing guide. There were no markings on the lure, no name --- nothing.

Does anybody know the maker of this lure? Please tell us.
Before the day ended Marty indeed proved that he wielded the "hottest stick" of the outing. He easily outscored us, especially me. However I wasn't about to complain. That blue crankbait that I was casting soon was attacked by several young redfish that fought like maniacs. Of course, they failed to meet the minimum required 18 inches, so we let them go as we did all the bass.

Andy and Marty caught bass, redfish and white  perch --- all on their crankbaits, but Marty won the day.

Gene Mueller with a small redfish. The blue lure is plainly visible.

On this trip it was clearly shown that one particular crankbait in one special color can outcatch all the other lures. Marty proved as much, but we must point out that the lure he used belonged to Andy. In fact, Andy chose it for his long-time friend and he cautioned him to do all he could not to lose it. "Scuppy" didn't. He even re-tied the knot now and then after hooking bass and other species.

Gene with a fair bass that was fooled by a crankbait.
The gist of this story simply is that even though you have a number of normally productive soft plastics in your box, or spinnerbaits and surface poppers --- when all else fails and a high tide is about to turn along a rocky shoreline, or one with sunken trees and other structure, go with something that mimics the actual food the gamefish feed on.

You might be in for the suprise of your fishing week. Don't be stubborn and stick with only one or two baits that served you well in the past. Be willing to change once in a while. It can pay off big-time.

By the way, on  an outing the previous day we fished the low tide and did very poorly. The bass guide, Andy, caught 5 bass; his guest, Bob Lunsford, caught 3 or 4 largemouths, but when Andy catches only 5 bass that's peanuts for a man of his skills. A day later we fished a tide that was much higher, but was about to turn, and look what happened. I loved every moment of it.

That's how the day started for the guide, Andy Andrzejewski.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Potomac lawbreakers nabbed and watch out when on Lake Anna

Conservation Police officers (CPOs) Josh Jackson and Josh Thomas were patrolling Westmoreland County in Virginia’s Northern Neck a week ago, when they observed several shoreline fishermen. (The game wardens didn’t forward information which body of water was involved, but it most likely was the tidal Potomac River.) Upon inspection of the fishermen's catches the game wardens discovered 19 undersized red drum, 4 undersized striped bass, 8 undersized flounder and 2 undersized speckled trout. Charges were placed for the possession of illegal fish.
.
Bad day on Lake Anna --- On August 25, Virginia CPO Sgt. Shuler and Senior Officer Boulanger had just finished fueling their patrol vessel and were preparing for a rainy boat patrol on Lake Anna (west of Fredericksburg) when they heard the sound of one vessel striking another. The next thing they heard was someone yelling "sorry" at the top of their lungs. Sgt. Shuler and Officer Boulanger walked over to where they heard the commotion and found that there had been a boating incident. The operator of a 26-foot boat was attempting to dock when he struck the dock causing the craft to bounce into another vessel that was moored. The striking boat then went full throttle into reverse and crushed a personal watercraft that was moored between two poles. Upon completion of the investigation, appropriate charges were placed against the operator of the striking craft.

Sgt. Shuler and Officer Boulanger then proceeded up Lake Anna for a watercraft safety checkpoint. Due to the heavy rains the boating traffic was slow. However, 30 minutes into the checkpoint the officers encountered a personal watercraft being operated by a male subject. The officers noticed a strong odor of alcohol on the individual and had the subject perform field sobriety tests. The subject did not complete the field sobriety tests satisfactorily and was placed under arrest. He was then transported to the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Department where he gave a breath sample. The results of the test were .13 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. The subject was subsequently transported to the magistrate where appropriate charges were requested and served.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finding a place to hunt may not be as hard as you think

(From the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance)

One important element of hunting is having, or finding, a place to hunt. The good news is that your hunt for a place to hunt has become much easier. There are websites, game department publications, and maps, such as those from DeLorme and MyTopo (www.mytopo.com/877-587-9004), that you can purchase and use to discover places to hang a treestand or possibly toss out the decoys to hunt ducks and geese.

Texas, for example, reports it has more than 1 million acres of land where the public can hunt. Details are at: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/public/

Some western states, such as Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Idaho and South Dakota, all have Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands where hunters can hunt for numerous species. Through cooperative agreements, states often manage most hunting activities on those USFS and BLM lands.  Those western states, and others, also lease private property and open the land to public hunting. These tracts can be located as “walk-in, block management, or hunter management” areas. Visit your state game department’s website for the most up-to-date details and locations.

Another often overlooked place to find hunting opportunities is U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands. The USACE reports it has more than 9 million annual hunter visits on its many tracts: www.usace.army.mil/Media/FactSheets/FactSheetArticleView/tabid/219/Article/173/environmental-stewardship-program-statistics.aspx.

And don’t forget hunter-supported national wildlife refuges as a place to hunt. With more than 97-million acres, NWRs can be found from coast-to-coast and in nearly every state, and many are open to public hunting. Details are at: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/.  In fact, hunting is a priority activity on National Wildlife Refuges thanks to the actions of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Many states in the East have Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and Game Lands that can be publicly owned or leased lands that are designated as open to hunting. Access can sometimes require the purchase of an additional license.

Millions of acres, small lakes and meandering waterways await you this fall. Let your hunt begin.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cooler Chesapeake Bay weather can mean hotter catches

Robert Harris Jr.'s 24.5 inch spotted trout
was jigged up around Cedar Point
In the Southern Maryland's part of the Chesapeake Bay, rockfish. blues and Spanish mackerel are running together and they are consistently breaking on the surface in schools from around the corner of the Patuxent River's Little Cove Point to above the Gas Docks, says Tackle Box proprietor, Ken Lamb, from his Lexington Park store in St. Mary’s County. “These fish will take trolled spoons using planers. Clark spoons in the #0 or #00 size or Drone spoons in #1 or #1 &1/2 sizes work great. The Sea Striker #1 planers are most popular now,” says Ken. 

Ken also adds that the Patuxent River's usually productive Cedar Point has schools of baitfish that are attracting stripers and bluefish. Catches in that area have improved quite a bit. In fact, a large speckled sea trout was jigged up there this week.

Speckled (also known as spotted) sea trout are in the Tangier Sound, the Honga River and around all the marsh islands of the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay. Meanwhile, bluefish are found all along the ship channel from Buoy 76 to Hooper's Island. The fish range from two to four pounds and they love trolled surgical eels.

Steve Helmrick with Spanish mackerel and blues from Little Cove Pt.
Rockfish and channel bass (also known as redfish or red drum in various parts of the East Coast) are found on points up inside the Patuxent River and they are  willing to take small bucktails, gold spoons (Tony size 14s), Sassy Shads, and surface poppers. The shallows from Half Pone Point, Sotterly and Captains Point hold good fish, as does the mouth of St. Leonard's Creek north to Sheridan Point on the Calvert County side. The redfish are averaging 16 to 17 inches, just shy of the 18 inch minimum. 

Croakers continue to bite almost everywhere in the creeks and rivers along with perch and spot. All bottom fishing will be excellent now with the arrival of cooler, clearer autumn water. Intense feeding will be the rule for the bottom feeders, but as real cold weather arrives they will move towards the ocean waters.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

You can definitely improve your odds on getting tasty venison

A buck like this one is possible if you do your homework
It's that time of year when bowhunters, especially, are preparing to spend many hours in the woods waiting for or slow-stalking a whitetailed deer. The muzzleloader gang soon follows and then my modern gun will hopefully be put to good use when frost covers the landscape later this year.
The forested acreage near an open field that I plan to hunt is home to oaks, some beeches, gum, holly and locust trees, in addition to nearby swampy bottomland that is covered in shrubs and brush --- ideal for deer bedding or hiding. The deer you want will dine on acorns (white acorns in particular), beech nuts and tender woodland greens .

While you're scouting out a likely hunting area, if you suddenly spot a good "rub" on a tree, produced by the antlers of a buck, all the better. Local lore has it that the bigger the tree is that has been rubbed, the bigger the buck. Look also for ground scrapes made by bucks. You'll see a round clearing of the leaves near the trunk of a tree into which the male deer urinates, hoping to attract a willing doe. If so, you ought to already have erected a deer stand 30 yards from the rub. Don't wait until a week before the season opens to build your stand. Let the wildlife around the stand's location get used to seeing it there, so don't waste time.

Finally, to make certain that I chose the proper location, I strap my motion sensor camera to a tree in an area that appears to be on a steady deer visiting list. After one or two days, I remove the computer card from the camera, check it out on my lap-top, save what information I can glean, then put the card back into the camera and perhaps move it to another spot. Having proof of deer visits within shooting distance of your stand does a lot to reassure a hunter.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lower Chesapeake and nearby Atlantic alive with fishing action

Dr. Julie Ball, one of the fishingest lady anglers on the East Coast, said flounder fans must work a little harder for their catches this week, but those using live bait and drifting with cut bait near the third island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel are finding some nice fish. “Drifting along the Thimble Shoal and Baltimore Channels are also good places to try right now,” she said. The Cell and buoy 36 areas are also producing limits of flatties of around 22 to 24 inches. Offshore wrecks also are good choices for the flatfish if you use strip baits that are bounced over the structure. Over the wrecks, keeper sea bass and grey triggerfish will also take your offerings.

Dr. Julie Ball and a king mackerel. Dr. Ball can pull my teeth any day.
“Cobias are on the move in the lower Chesapeake Bay and along the ocean front, generating some outstanding top water action. The recent front kept many boats at the dock, but catches should resume once boats can get back out,” said Julie. Try casting live bait and jigs to large pods of cobia swimming on the surface heading towards the mouth of the Bay. Many of these fish are in the 40- to 60-pound class.

Spanish mackerel are still responding to trolled spoons along Sandbridge and Dam Neck, as well as around the artificial islands of the Bridge-Tunnel. A few king mackerel are also striking trolled baits a few miles off Sandbridge.

“Amberjack are still available around at the South Tower for those willing to make the run, and deep droppers are finding the usual mixed bag of blueline tilefish, black bellied rosefish, and scattered barrelfish and seabass,” said the lady dentist.

Billfish of all varieties are coming to trolled spreader rigs, resulting to several grand slams. Several swordfish are coming in from overnighters, with a few bigger fish beginning to show. The new pending state record swordfish weighing in at a whopping 446-pounds was a product of one of these overnight trips this week. Dolphin action is good, with many gaffers over 30-pounds hitting the docks. Nice wahoo are also becoming more common in 50 to 100 fathoms. For more information, go to www.drjball.com

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Notice to boaters in western Maryland's Washington County

A construction project on the I-70 Bridge over the Conococheague Creek between Clear Spring and Hagerstown in Washington County requires the installation of a temporary bridge over the Conococheague just below I-70. Due to the temporary bridge's low clearance, vessel usage on the creek will be severely limited and safety barriers make portage impossible. For safety reasons please refrain from using this portion of the Conococheague. The project is expected to be completed by July 2014.  

I remember this creek in particular because many Potomac River smallmouth bass anglers would visit the Conococheague to seine small mad-tom catfish to be used as live bait for the bass. For some reason the creek has always been home to plenty of the mad-toms.

For more information contact Jeff Foreman of the Maryland State Highway Administration at 301-223-1680 (office) or 301-252-1270 (cell).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One of the best billfish seasons ever, says Virginia's Ken Neill

Photo by Dr. Ken Neill, Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman's Association

From the Virginia Beach waterfront, Dr. Ken Neill sent word that the waters east of the resort city have been alive with billfish of every type. "Catching a grand slam is not at all unusual," suggests Dr. Neill, who, while fishing with friends aboard his boat, the Healthy Grin, has landed white and blue marlin, as well as sailfish, and he says that some of his charter boat contacts also add swordfish hookups to this impressive list.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kevin and Howard fish for upper river smallmouth bass in the dark

Kevin Wilson, who runs a fun web site about fishing, hunting and fossil collecting at fatboysoutdoors.blogspot.com not long ago bought an aluminum jet boat and, in spite of experiencing a few mechanical setbacks, he not only fishes when you can see a mile in front of your craft, he and his pal Howard don’t mind giving the upper Potomac River’s smallmouth bass and walleyes a shot long after sunset. Let him tell what happened the other day.

Kevin Wilson with a moonlight Potomac smallmouth
“The water temperature was 81-plus degrees,” he began. “The water was gin-clear -- and it was a full moon, just about ready to rise when we put in. We targeted bass, but also hoped for perhaps a stray walleye or two. We fished the heck out of topwater lures and had a few lazy slurping hits. I had an explosion on a super fluke early on, and about a 1/2 hour after sunset, hooked into a bruiser of a bass (at least I think it was a bass), but after fighting it half way to the boat, it pulled free. Howard and I caught a few on hard and soft jerkbaits, cranking slow across the current at one particular current break.”

“Everywhere else we tried there was no action at all, not even a bump.  At 11 p.m.,  Howard and I went to plastic worms after returning to the lone spot where the fish were active. In the past, when fish should hammer topwater baits and don't, soft plastics often work well at night, and they didn't disappoint.  Howard quickly nailed a nice, fat 16-inch  smallie and a couple smaller ones. I caught two more chunky smallmouths. My last smallie that hammered my plastic worm was about 17 to 18 inches long. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Some fish begin to think of heading south; catches improve

Dr. Julie Ball, the dentist and angler supreme from the Virginia Beach parts of our world, says fish of all sizes are showing up all over the lower Chesapeake Bay and along the ocean front as the annual southward autumn migration slowly begins. “Folks are finding cobias around structure as well as free swimming in singles, pairs and small pods,” she says. “More of the larger fish are around this week, with several pushing over 60 pounds. Chummers are also faring well, while those working the oceanfront continue to encounter
good shark catches of varying species and sizes.”

Julie Ball and a fighting amberjack that she subdued
The flounder fishing in the lower Chesapeake is settling into a more predictable pattern as the flatties assemble along channel edges, shoals, and along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. “Good numbers of respectable flatfish continue to keep anglers content, although the trophy doormats are still scarce this year,” says the lady dentist.

“Sheepshead are still around, with decent fish taking fiddler crabs, crab, and clams. The entire span of the Bay Bridge-Tunnel and all the tubes of the artificial islands are holding fish pushing up to 12-pounds. Spadefish are still biting around the islands of the Bridge-Tunnel, with anglers finding scattered 4- and 5-pounders near the 3rd island. Trigger fish are still everywhere, often becoming a nuisance to anglers targeting other species,” reports Julie.

Spanish mackerel also can make the fishing exciting near the Bridge-Tunnel, also along Cape Henry, and along the buoy lines at the mouth of the Bay. A few king mackerel encounters are occurring off of Sandbridge, but nothing significant as of yet, says Julie.

For near and far offshore boaters, amberjack are still available at the South Tower, and jack crevelle could be a nice consolation prize at the Chesapeake Light Tower. Deep dropping for blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, and blackbellied rosefish is still a good choice.

Farther out in the Atlantic, the billfish are cooperating. “Some boats release a dozen or more whites in a day,” says Julie. “The best marlin action is stretched from the 200-line to the triple 0s, in around 50 to 100 fathoms,” she reports and continues, “Dolphin are scattered about, with some citation fish in the mix, along with wahoo. Yellowfin tuna are scarce, but some fish are raging to 40-pounds if you can find them. Overnight trips are producing some big sharks and a few juvenile swordfish for boats lately. For more information, go to www.drjball.com.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Viral disease kills 1,700 Michigan deer (and it could happen here)

Our friend Joe Novak passed along the sad news from Michigan wildlife officials that more than 1,700 whitetailed deer have died this summer in the southern half of the state's Lower Pensinsula. Michigan, of course, ranks among the premier deer hunting states in the entire U.S.

Disease could strike deer anytime, anywhere.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, aka EHD, has been worst in Ionia County, where more than 1,000 deer died.

DNR officials say 225 deer have been killed in Branch County, followed by 153 in Clinton County and 101 in Calhoun County. 

Could it happen here? Yes. In fact, if it happened in a well-managed state like Michigan, it can happen anywhere in the country where whitetails thrive.