Sunday, November 12, 2017

November Wenona Rockfish Madness 11/12/17

I haven't been fishing as much in the last month as I would have liked.  In fact, I haven't been at all in over 2 weeks.  Sad because it can be so so good this time of year.  And today was one of those days.

My fishing buddy Dan and I launched off Wenona around 1115 AM . It was cold- in the '40's all day but the 54F water was nearly as smooth as glass, a.k.a. slick cam as they say on Deal Island.  We started off doing what I had been successful with just a few weeks prior- casting bass assassins off Little Deal Island and also off the jetty outside Wenona.  We caught a couple but soon conceded that things had changed.  The next plan was to troll swim shads around South Marsh Island, so we jetted off NW.  About half way out we noticed that birds were working small pockets of areas in the deeper water, and upon closer inspection noticed balls of bait fish with fish breaking the water.  Perfect- just what we were looking for. Low tide was at 3:15 pm, and we thought we'd now catch some rock while the tide continued to roll out.  So, mostly keeping the motor idling, we maneuvered from place to place chasing the birds who in turn were chasing the bait fish being demolished by the rockfish.  We picked our way among quite a few spot- there was not really any pattern. We caught some in 70 ft of water, some in 30, using metal jigs with and up & down motion, as I had learned from Capt. Larry Tawes. One thing for sure- we had to chase and we had to work hard for the fish we caught, maybe 30.  

This eventually slowed down by 1:45, so we decided to finish our journey to South Marsh and troll.  This proved to be a frustrating venture, as first the grass (which I had thought would be gone by now) fouled our rigs repeatedly, and then we lost a 4$ swim shad to a stump.  Since this did not bear any fish, I made the call to return to the jigging ground near Buoy 12.  Actually, we ended up stopping about 1/2 mile north of there.  The tide had slacked and fish were jumping everywhere.  Now it was really game on.  This went on in a fury for the next hour, and it just kept getting better. We probably boated 80 fish total, the majority in that last hour.  Many fish in the 17-19" range, even more 15-16" or smaller, and only one keeper at 21".  I had not pounded rock fish like that, ever.  Unfortunately, just after 4pm I knew I had to return to harbor and head home.  I'm hoping I get at least one more day like that on the water this year- maybe during Maryland deer season (rifle).  Thanks for reading.  This is #DealIslandRandy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

October rockfish roundup, #DealIslandRandy

So, with the boat engine now repaired and running well, I've been out a couple of times.  Nine were anything to write home about, but I'll certainly write about them.  First up was Friday October 6, my fishing buddy Dan, his friend Brian, and I headed across the Manokin river out of Wenona on a gorgeous but windy afternoon.  Happy to say that the boat ran great after my repairs (water pump, thermostat, heat sensor and exhaust manifold) but it was a choppy ride, with Dan taking a piloting lesson from yours truly. After much searching, we finally found the spot at mouth of Teague Creek, where buddy Bruce had slayed the rockfish the evening before.  We anchored up on the falling tide and just after peak high, and we fished it hard. Unfortunately, not much to show but a few undersize rock, one 6" speckled trout, and one angry turtle.  Note to self- location from Wenona is just beyond the red channel marker heading up the Manokin toward St Peters Creek.  2nd note to self: this is a good 30 minute ride back to Wenona in a decent chop on my boat- we got in just at dark.  The next day I spent at the Deal Island Peninsula Project meeting on shoreline erosion, which was fine because it was too windy to boat Tangier Sound.

Oct 13 I took a trip to Mountain Grove, VA to meet up with the WVU college boys and do some serious squirrel hunting. We shot 70 squirrels among us I believe, in 2 days. Using my trusty Remington 1100 16 gauge shotgun, I only took 3 each day.  These guys are serious sharp shooters, and I got seriously schooled in the woods, but had a great time.

October 20, and its still 75F out, good reason to take a 1/2 day VAC and go fishing.  Dan and I headed over to South Marsh. I was certain we were going to troll up some keeper rock.  Unfortunately, the warm weather and accompanying 70F water temperatures had kept the region full of eel grass.  Our trolling rigs were quickly fouled, and we soon switched to casting bass assassins on jig heads.  Also, the forecaster 9 mph winds were more like 19 mph, we got beat.  We managed to get 4 small rock to the boat, all within a brief amount of time.  One bright point was the new Yeti cup holder Dan gave me, customized with the WV logo on one side, and my trademark Deal Island Randy on the other.  Thanks Dan- super cool and I love it !!

Lastly, my buddy Bruce called on Sat Oct 21 and invited me to launch out of Wenona with him the next day.  He had caught nearly 60 fish, and I was anxious to repeat that.  We launched at 4 pm, with only 2 1/2 hours of fishing time, but it was so gorgeous out and high tide had been at 4 PM.  We alternated between the outside of the jetty just outside Wenona harbor, and the shoreline of Little Deal Island just beyond the stumpy area.  After catching a small rock on my first cast, I thought it was going to be game-on.  Unfortunately, things fizzled after that.  We brought probably 20 fish to the boat, all undersize. Some we caught on bucktails trailing a 5-6" white Mr Twister-style plastic.  Bucks had green hair of course.

Busy the next two weekends, next time out will be November 11 if the weather cooperates.  May finally catch some crabs too.  Until next time, this is #DealIslandRandy.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Back to Rockfish, 9/23/17

With the outboard motor on my center console currently down and out, I was happy when my buddy Bruce called Saturday afternoon and asked me to go fishing with him.  The WVU football game I was watching wasn't all that interesting, and it was drop-dead gorgeous outside.  Besides, I always catch fish when I fish with Bruce.  He's a real student and technician when it comes to figuring out how and where to fish, sort of the direction I've also been going lately.

This trip was nearly a carbon copy of one we took exactly two weeks prior.  Same place in the Manokin River, same tide, same time of day.  Only two weeks later.  And, the results were nearly the same, only better.  We started casting 4" (not 5" !!) chartreuse bass assassins as soon as we got there, and we caught a couple.  It wasn't until the tide really started flowing out hard that we anchored at the mouth of that same creek, and proceeded to whack the fish all the way until dark, probably 90 minutes straight.  We caught somewhere between 30 and 40 rockfish, mostly between 15-18" (I think one was 18.5", a "heartbraker" as Bruce calls them).  And just like that, it stopped.  Pic below is of Bruce catching one of his many fish that night.

I've got a handle on the outboard woes.  Replaced the water pump and thermostat last week, only to discover the real culprit- a temperature sensor.  Hoping to be able to complete that repair next Friday and maybe get some fishing in on my own boat next weekend.  This is DealIslandRandy- see you next time !

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,....