It seems as though the striped bass fishing is good from one end of the Chesapeake Bay to the next based on reports reaching me.
I've had very good fishing in the Choptank River, but alas, it was a forgettable day on the Potomac last week during the Virginia opener.
I had it on good authority that the lower bay and tidal Potomac areas were heating up, and last Friday's scheduled trip with Captain Eddie Davis held a lot of promise. Davis is a full-time waterman and one of my favorite Chesapeake characters.
"If Cap'n Eddie can't put us onto rock, then I guarantee you that nobody can," Poppa Joe Kaplan said as Davis pointed his Edith Rose out of Cobb Island. Our party included Joe Kaplan Jr., Bill Bland, Buck Jewell, Mike Masters and Arundel Hospital's Tim Margenthales.
"This is a good group of guys," Davis said. The group fishes with him a dozen or so times a year.
Not long after daylight, the tone of the day was set when Margenthales hooked a nice 24-inch class rock only to have it free itself from the hook an instant before it was netted. And then the rain began. It rained all day.
"Cap'n Eddie's not doing diddly," a frustrated Davis said around noontime. By then we had four keepers on ice, and just about everything on the boat trolling along behind us.
It was, quite simply, one of those days. We saw fish constantly on the fish finder, but, as another captain on a nearby boat noted over the radio, "They got a bad case of lockjaw today." No one throughout the Cobb Island-Swan Point area being fished had better luck.
Of course, the next day, in the same area the rock were all but jumping into the boats. I understand Davis' party of five was done inside of two hours, and Captain Stevie Davis needed another hour.
The Potomac had this year's highest spawn, with a young-of-year index of 22.1. The year's overall average was 9.1, which discounting the crazy 25.2 recorded in 1989, was the highest figure since 1974's 10.1.
I fished the Lower Bay-Point Lookout area regularly this past summer and always saw loads of rockfish.
Most charters and many private sportsmen prefer trolling for rock. The rule of thumb is to troll fast for bluefish and slow for striped bass, but on every one of my trips these past few weeks, we have had better luck trolling a little faster than normal. You may want to give it a try.
Keith Walters, who knows as much about rockfishing as anyone in the area, sums up trolling: "It bores me half to death, but it is mighty productive. Still, I prefer to cast bucktails most of the time."
Walters, who is the author of what is quickly turning out to be thclassic work on area rockfishing, "Chesapeake Stripers," recently said: "Though you can put out a wide offering of lures at various depths while trolling, you are nonetheless fishing a small segment of a water column."
Walters says that casting allows you to cover the entire watecolumn.
"Rock are in deeper, clearer water right now, and they are boashy and spooky. If I see a breaking school I'll approach no closer than a long cast away. Using a medium spinning rig and a white bucktail teamed with a 6-inch white or red plastic grub, I'll cast into the column of fish."
Walters said that it's important to close your spinning reel's bale as soon as the bucktail hits the water. "Then, let the lure sink on a tight line," he said. "You will feel it being hit or tapped as it drops. When you get a good hit on the dropping lure, pull back on your rod about a foot to set the hook."