- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Strong winds and colder temperatures have turned sportfishing into a chore in most parts of Chesapeake Bay country. The water temperatures are dipping below 50, and for upper Chesapeake anglers that means the rockfish and bluefish action is winding down — way down.

In the middle parts of Maryland’s portion of the bay, some boats actually are still chumming in places such as the Gooses, but catches are not good. The reason has been the wind and colder water. Chumming isn’t very productive when water temperatures fall below 60.

In the Southern Maryland sector of the bay, Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park says, “The rockfishing slowed to a crawl after Thanksgiving. Trollers reported only one or two fish, or nothing at all, for the weekend.”

Massive schools of striped bass and baitfish are bunched together about 12 miles below Smith Point but appear to be reluctant to make their way north. Says Lamb: “We’ll just have to wait them out, but December 15th is the last day of the season in Maryland waters. The Potomac and Virginia continues its rockfish season through the end of December.”

Still, the farther south you head in the Chesapeake, the better the fishing will be. Boaters who troll nonstop along the channel ledges find big stripers now and then.

For example, Northern Neck, Va., charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (804/580-7292) agrees that Old Man Winter showed up a little early, with the water temperature in Reedville, Va., standing at 51 degrees, maybe lower by the time you read this. But the colder days have encouraged the striped bass to school more aggressively, and those are the fish that the Marylanders are waiting for.

In the lower parts of the Chesapeake, the striped bass fishing is not over. Pipkin says, “Although there are fewer migratory fish here than are normally found at this time, we are catching large fish each day throughout the region. The cool weather has provided the catalyst necessary to prolong our December fishery.”

Currently, the big ocean stripers are in the bay, moving northward from the Cell and Buoy 41 area up the Cut Channel. Scattered schools of bait are holding striped bass from 32 to 41 inches. Outside the Rappahannock River mouth, anglers are finding rockfish around the F1 and 59A buoys. Inside the river, you’ll hook stripers near the bridge.

Ocean action surprising — From Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association comes word that offshore action has suffered greatly because of strong winds. However, inshore striper action has been red-hot despite the stiff breezes. Big fish have arrived in numbers.

“We boated 10 between 40 and 50 inches over Thanksgiving weekend,” says Neill. “Along Virginia Beach, there has been a good run of big bluefish mixed in with the stripers. For those tired of stripers, tautog action is very good in the bay.”

Meanwhile in Maryland, schools of yellowfin tuna continue to be noticed in the offshore canyon waters. Closer to land, the sea bass and tautog seasons are closed, so there’s not much going on. However, some of the ocean boats are chasing schools of migrating bluefish and all along are watching for striped bass to move inside the 3-mile line.

Surf fishermen are waiting for stripers and bluefish along the Ocean City and Assateague beaches. Some of the surf anglers are using finger mullets as bait and occasionally find some action, but this kind of fishing is unpredictable to say the least.

Freshwater and tidal rivers — Walleye and smallmouth bass fishing continue to be fine, says the Maryland DNR. Anglers are reporting in from western Maryland’s Deep Creek Lake and the Upper Potomac River, telling of good catches.

The tidal Choptank River’s Watts Creek is hot. Cast tubes, jigs and crankbaits to rip-rap rocks and also try the deep channel bends in the upper creek. In the Eastern Shore’s Wicomico River, bass have been found in 8-10 feet of water along the outsides of docks and piers, seawalls and the like.

The tidal Potomac River has been slow, what with strong winds and colder weather keeping most anglers indoors. That will change quickly because when the weather calms down, you can bet the upper tidal Potomac’s feeder creeks will deliver as far as bass, crappies and resident yellow perch are concerned.

The upper reaches of the tidal James River near Richmond are good for stripers and blue catfish.


• Anglers Waterfowl Weekend — Dec. 12-13, Angler’s sporting goods store on Route 50/east in Annapolis will have a special guest, Jeff Foiles of Foiles Migrators, manufacturers of championship duck and goose calls. Foiles will help you pick out a new duck or goose call, tune the call you now own and offer tips and calling instruction to get more birds into your decoys. Free.

• Saltwater fishing lecture series — Starting Jan.5, and on subsequent Mondays, Jan.12 and 26; Feb.2, 9, and 23; March1 and 8; all run 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Maplewood-Alta Vista Rec Center, 5209 Alta Vista Road, Bethesda. Cost: $85 for Montgomery County residents ($95 for non-residents). Learn from seasoned professionals such as charter fishing captains Kerry Muse, Chuck Fisher, George Prenant, Drew Payne and fishing guides Richie Gaines and Pete Dahlberg. Subjects covered include techniques for trolling, chumming, bottom fishing, jigging, depth finder use, outfitting a boat, best times to fish. Must pre-register. Call the Montgomery County Dept. of Recreation, 240/777-6870 or go to mcrd.net.

• CCA/Southern Maryland winter barbecue — Feb.21, 6p.m., at new Izaak Walton League Hall, 4200 Gardiner Road, Waldorf. The Southern Maryland chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association invites the public to join in its annual fund-raiser winter barbecue. Cost: $30 per person (includes an annual membership in the CCA, a $25 value). Great food, open bar, and plenty of great items available in raffles, silent and open auctions. If anyone wants to donate something for the auction, the chapter will include it during an evening of fun for a worthwhile cause. Information: Donald Gardiner, 301/645-3323 or 301/843-3719.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected].

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