Monday, September 18, 2017

Speckled Trout Season, 9/16/17

I've caught more speckled trout this year than in all previous years combined.  However, it was always one (or two), here and there.  This past weekend, that all changed.  I launched at 1:30 pm on the most gorgeous afternoon in the world- light winds from the west, blue skies, upper '70's. Forecasted low tide was 5:30 pm.  After fishing with my buddy Bruce the week before, I had decided to no longer use bait for the rest of this year.  It would be artificial only.

I tried a few spots prior to heading over to South Marsh Island.  I tried a few spots on the north side, first back in the coves, then finally on one point where I had seen a man and his boys catching small rock earlier (Gunbarrel Point).  

I was rotating with 3 different rods. all rigged differently- trying to find what the fish wanted.  One rod had a scented Berkley powerbait (4-inch white mullet with a chartreuse tail) on a 3/8 oz jig head with eyes.  The 2nd rod had a green similar bass assassin-like fishy of some sort, same jig head.  The 3rd rod was rigged with a small swim-shad Storm Lure.  I casted, and I casted, and I casted for 3 1/2 hours- nothing.  Then at 5pm, as if someone had flipped a switch- WHAM, fish on.  Planning on seeing a rockfish on the other end, I immediately realized the telltale fight of a speckled trout, and was delighted to land a keeper of nearly 15 inches.  Next cast- WHAM, same thing except this one came on board at over 15 inches.  Next cast- WHAM. Wow, this was getting fun, and the fish were getting bigger as #3 in 3 casts came in at 16.5 inches.  I quickly got my rig back out again in search of my fourth and last allowable fish (legal limit is 4).  Dang, my first cast in the last 4 with no strike.  OK no problem.  Next cast-WHAM!  Thought I was done only to have this fish flip off the hook as I was swinging into the boat (note -fishing by myself and with no net).  Next cast- WHAM, again, only this one vacated his spot on my line about 2/3 of the way in.  For the next half hour plus, as the tide wound down and poised to turn, I casted fruitlessly.  Finally as the tide was just getting ready to switch, fish #4 hit and gave me a good fight, measuring in at 16 inches.  Actually there were a few strikes prior to number 4, but none full force.  

I think that the days where I could drop anchor (or drift) with some simple cut bait and reliably catch legal fish are gone, maybe forever, I'm not sure.  I'm having to invest a lot more time, with a lot more planning and thought into what I am doing, just to catch some fish.  Nothing ever stays the same, does it?

Filleted my trout the next day, took them home and cooked some for dinner. Without a doubt, speckled trout are the best tasting fish that come out of Tangier Sound.  Had hoped to fish the next day but ran into a little bit of engine trouble.  Hoping to get  this squared away soon !!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

August wrap-up, end of summer and into September

August gave me a few more fishing opportunities, but nothing remarkable.  I'll summarize it here pretty quickly.  Got out two more weekends, caught a few fish bottom fishing deep water (some decent spot, kingfish, tiny croaker and speckled trout). Also, caught plenty of small rockfish, mostly around points behind deal island, and costing me plenty of soft crabs. A venture out to Pry Island (south of South Marsh) was a bust. The point north of Rumbley at the mouth of the Manokin yielded a few fish, including a couple of nice white perch, all on bait.

Labor Day weekend was a no-go, so I'll fast forward to the following weekend, Fri Sept 8.  My buddy Bruce had nbeen telling me of all the rockfish he had been catching out of St. Peter's Creek. Intrigued, I got him to agree to take me with him.  We launched out of St. Peter's Creek, in Champ, MD (across the creek from Oriole).  I knew this boat ramp was there but had never launched there. We launched Bruce's nice new boat and headed out into the Manokin.  We ended up fishing the mouth of a creek, probably 200 yrds from where I had been fishing all summer. We were casting abotu a 4-inch bass assassin, chartreuse, on a 3/8 oz jighead (round).  WE were timed right with the outgoing tide, which was rapidly draining the marsh into the river.  We had decent depth water too
(3-4 ft +). No dice for awhile, so we moved along the marsh bank for awhile. Just at sunset, we returned to the creek mouth, and within 5 minutes it was game-on.  We caught small rock steadily for quite awhile.  Then they got a little bigger, 16-18".  Finally, Bruce landed one 21", and that would turn out to be the only keeper of the evening.  We caught a bunch more fish, even after dark and up until 8:30, but no more keepers.  Will return here again,... One thing I want to capture is the abrupt cooling spell we experienced immediately after Labor Day. Actually it had started teh week before, but set in in earnest this week.  Evenings in the mid-50's turned the bay water temps quickly to the low '70s.  Bay fishing is changing quickly.  And for the first year that I can remember, I'm glad to be done with summer, and am eagerly welcoming fall.

Weekend after Labor Day is also the Skipjack 5K, which I have run every year since it started 5 years ago.  This lightly attended race is the only one I run each year, but I love that it is held at Deal Island and will continue to run it each year.  It gets me off the couch each February and motivates me to run throughout the rest of the year.  This year, I won 1st place for all male runners.  And so what if there were only a few of us, a win is a win.

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 11, 2017 update

Still looking for that great bottom fishing- looks like it is not happening this year.  And it isn't just me. As I launched my boat on a beautiful Friday afternoon (8/11), there were only 3 other boats on the parking lot at Wenona, and none of the charter boats out fishing.  That speaks volumes.  Anyway, TJ and I launched at 2pm and headed to the west side of the channel north of Wenona, armed with bloodworms ($15/dozen foe the big ones) and softcrabs.  I was marking a lot of fish at the interface between 25 and 15 feet, so we set up a drift starting in about 17 ft.  After making a few depth adjustments, I had caught total of 4 nice Spot and one nice 13.5" kingfish, but it was slow going as this took 1.5 hrs plus.  The drift was fast as tide was racing in and the south was blasting 15+ mph straight out of the south.

The plan was to relocate back behind Deal Island for the peak high tide and the first 2 hours of falling tide at 5pm.  This has produced nice rock fish several times this summer, although the last time all fish were undersized.  Sure enough, just after high tide we started whacking rock fish.  We stuck with this and exhausted our entire dozen of soft crabs.  I don't know what the final catch was, I would estimate 20 rock, the largest were in the 15-17" range. 

I'm convinced that there is no rock fish shortage in the Chesapeake Bay as the state of MD would like for you to believe. In fact, I'm catching more rockfish than ever before.  And, I'm wondering whether this in fact doesn't have something to do with the disappearance of the Croaker.  Are they connected? Where are the Croaker? Are they being caught elsewhere?  The MD DNR fishing report indicates they are being caught near the mouth of the Potomac.  Is that true, and of so why not on the eastern shore?  Hoping to get back out soon, I have so many different things I want to try.  Also hoping for some calmer waters, as the wind has limited my options most of the summer.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Update, July 2017

The story continues to be more of what "is not biting", rather than a happy brag on what I'm catching. Monday July 3, I spend 3 hours drowning squid and soft crab in deep water of Tangier Sound.  Tide is coming in, everything is right- except there is not one croaker to be found.  I hear tales of nice catches of keeper spot, but they are biting on bloodworms only, and I'm not holding any.  At 7 pm just at high tide, I move to north side of South Marsh and drift eastward across the large creek mouth, tossing my popping cork with a Gulp white mullet behind it, hoping to nail a big speck or maybe a red drum.  At the same time, I'm drifting soft crab across the 4-5 foot flat.  At about 8pm, WHAM! Rockfish attacks the crab and puts on a nice show in the shallow water.  I won this battle, and he goes in the cooler.  AT least I don't go home empty handed.

Fast forward, Friday July 14.  Surely, the croaker must arrived by now.  No dice.  My buddy Dan and I brave the 90F+ heat at 3 pm, frying in my boat in deep water.  Oh, and its rough too, so options limited.  Three hours of this fruitless effort, we head for protected water behind Deal Island to catch the fall of tide from peak high.  We enter Laws Thorofare through the north end harbor, and I show Dan my historically favorite deep hole fishing spots back in "the Gut".  We anchor in an absolutely spectacular place, deep water with a ripple  from a cut-through feeding into it.  We aren't there 5 minutes, and I grow concerned about the storm clods that have quickly mounted just to our west.  Dan has cell signal, so I get him to pull up the radar of the area.  When I see the radar image, I advise Dan that we have to leave RIGHT NOW!  He heeds my caution and concern, and we motor as fast as possible back to the ramp at Wenona.  Boat back on the trailer, it looks as though the storm has passed off to the north.  Boat back to the yard, things looking scary again.  We unload the essentials, I unhook, and prepare to meet Dan at his house for dinner.  As I leave my fish camp, there is water blowing across Deal Island Road, being blown by the sudden 40-60 mph winds that came seemingly out nowhere.  This water is from Tangier Sound, as it's not even raining yet.  That's how quickly things can change .  We watch the storm unfold from the safety of Dan's House, 10 feet away from Tangier Sound, in Chance.  It was an amazing sight, and I am so glad we got off the water when we did.

Next day I take my daughter Kara and her boy friend TJ out.  One of the local charter captains was kind enough to post pics of his coolers full of Spot.  So, I know that if I can locate him, I stand a reasonably good chance of catching some or at least know where he has been catching them.  West side of the channel, between bouys 12 and 14, and in 17 ft of water.  We drift near where he is anchored.  The wind and tide are opposed, so we are almost standing still.  I don't have blood worms, but I have fish bites, soft crab, and squid.  In three hours we manage to put 2 really nice kingfish (13.5-14") in the cooler, as well as one nice Spot.  Just before the 1830 peak high tide, we move to a nice little pocket behind Little Deal Island, exactly where I had caught a nice rockfish earlier in the summer under almost the same conditions.  We anchor and soon it is game on.  I think we caught probably 8-10 nice but small rockfish in pretty short order, all on soft crab.  The kids are happy we caught some fish, and so am I.  I still would like to know where the hardhead are.  The only plus about their absence is that it has really pushed my to get better at catching some other species.  Until next time, probably in 2 weeks,....

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Late June re-cap

First things first- a very brief detail on what I caught last week.  This would be June 17.  I caught some nice but windy (or course) weather, the right tide, and one free day, and I didn't waste it.  I kept things pretty basic and fished on the back side of Deal Island.  Target species: Rockfish and Speckled trout.  A blistering south wind made it necessary to find some protected shallow water, challenging on the south side of the island.  I spent 2-3 hours throwing soft crab, only to be frustrated.  Last move was back toward the dock. On the way back I found a protected little pool, and since the tide was now high, figured I would give it a shot.  Boom!! The 22-inch rock put up a nice thrashing fight in 4 feet of water.  After following this with a few smaller fish, the day was done. 

Next up, the family joins me for fishing June 22 and 24.  This time we dodged really crappy rainy and windy weather, and late day low tides.  June 22 with Von and Darko yielded a few small rockfish and lots of skates and rays.  June 24 I fished with my daughter Kara and her bf TJ.  This was in the Manokin at high tide, middle of the day and hot hot hot. Kara caught a nice 15" speckled trout, and TJ put 2 really nice big white perch in the cooler.  I can't count how many small rock they caught and threw back. 

The lack of croaker is really concerning.  Looks like 2nd year in a row they will be a no-show through June.  This is seriously a bummer, and downright disturbing to me.  I remember how back in the '80's they were scarce, but back then we had plenty of sea trout.  Sigh,......

Sunday, June 11, 2017

More shallow water action- Memorial Day, and June 9-10, 2017

Quick recap of Memorial Day first.  It was cool and rainy, like most of our spring. I got the boat out once- on Memorial Day, with my buddy Dan.  It was a bright sunny day, rather warm, and we launched at noon.  We fished the waters all around South Marsh Island, using soft crab exclusively. Two rock and two speckled trout, but nothing to brag about.

Fast forward to June 9.  Opting for a change of scenery, I thought we would fish the shallow waters of the Manokin River, looking for speckled trout.  I've heard in years past that a lot of specks are caught here in the spring.  Dan was once again my co-pilot.  We launched at 2pm, just preceding the peak high tide (at Chance).  I knew there was a creek just north of Rumbley, which actually cut back behind Rumbley.  My thinking was that this would be a good place to fish on a falling tide, as the bait fish should be pouring out of the creek, with rockfish and trout ready to ambush them.  Turned out to be a pretty good calculation, as we turned 3 hours of fishing into a pretty good meal. I absolutely love sea trout and speckled trout, so I was thrilled that we could take home 2 decent trout.  Dan caught the larger at 17", mine was 15",  We threw a fair number of sub-14" trout back, in addition to countless small rock.  The next day, I figured we would get out a little earlier and catch some more of that first part of tide, since day before we had started catching them immediately.  Well, as most fishermen know- no two days are the same. The fishing was far slower than the day before.  Notable is that the water was also 3+ degrees warmer, jumping from 73.5 to 76.5 F.  Still we managed to put a 15" trout and a nice white perch into the cooler after releasing a bunch of schoolie rock, so no skunk. Pic is a proud Dan displaying his first keeper speckled trout on June 9.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shallow water rockfish and magic Fridays- 5/19/17

There is just something magic about Fridays- can I get an "Amen"?  It's typically the end of a long week, and also the gateway to the weekend- that in itself is cause for celebration.  And for me- this was the 2nd Friday in a row where I simply "got it done".  So like many other folks, I'm at work in my office on a Friday morning.  I got the bulk of my work done early, and now I'm looking out the window of my cubicle, amazed at the sun, which has been rather scarce lately.  And finally, the wind had laid down too.  As is typical of many springs here on Delmarva, the wind has blown consistently for over a month, and rain has soaked us almost every weekend.  Coupled with some technical issues with my boat trailer, which I corrected, I had managed to get out fishing on my boat so far- exactly one time. Tic-toc, tic-toc, about 11:15 AM and I simply can't take it anymore.  That's it- the half day was now declared.

I was on the island by 1:30, and had the boat in the water at Wenona by 3:30 (waiting for the tide to flip). A short cruise later (3-4 miles) and I am anchored off the north end of South Marsh Island.  I had previously outfitted my trip with large trolling rigs, until one of my neighbors advised me to put them away, go get my bait rigs and buy some soft crabs- which I did.  After cutting up the first crab and hooking pieces to the bottom rig with 2 ozs of weight, I threw it toward the shore, maybe 15-20 feet away.  I was in about 7 feet of water, just right.  I know that the rockfish cruise this shore looking to ambush bait fish, particularly after the falling tide had just kicked them all out of the creeks, nooks and crannies that spanned the island. After less than 5 minutes I had my first strike and it was game on.  I could see how the fish were going to bite today- picking up the bait and slowly cruising with it, providing me ample opportunity to power-set the hook.  I was hoping for speckled trout but I'll settle for rockfish as a nice consolation.  This pattern went on for probably an hour and a half, it never slowed.  I put some nice fish in the cooler, threw many more back overboard, and then I noticed it,... Yes, the clear signs of a distant storm forming west of the Chesapeake Bay.  It was an all too familiar sight, and I knew my time was probably short.  Turning on my marine VHF I picked up the NOAA weather station, and they were reporting a really vicious storm threatening the mouth of the Potomac. Great, exactly due west of where I was sitting.  By this time, the storm was visibly growing on the horizon.  Next, I pulled up a radar app on my phone, nearly amazed that I had any signal at my location (usually I don't).  Wow- that was one focused, tight and ugly storm- and it was definitely headed my direction.  Having been smacked by a waterspout a decade before, I had learned my lesson and knew it was time to bail.  And my timing was good- I had enough time to zip back, trailer the boat, get the boat back to the yard and unloaded, and call my wife, just before,.... BOOM!!! The storm hit, and it was a doozy. Until next time.  I'll likely be looking for rockfish, speckled trout, or maybe a drum. Hoping the croaker arrive soon too.