Bluefish future for bay looks big, plentiful

On the Outdoors

October 23, 1997|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Through much of late summer and early fall, smallish bluefish have been marauding through chum lines, snapping up baits intended for other species and stripping bucktails and feather jigs with great regularity. But the arrival of cooler weather this week will have them heading south, and one has to hope they will return next year a little larger.

Spring runs of big bluefish have been virtually nonexistent for a number of years and recent summers and falls have produced mostly smaller blues. But, according to the Department of Natural Resources' juvenile index this year, the future of bluefish in Maryland's bay waters is potentially excellent.

The juvenile index this year is higher than any since 1983, and that comes on top of last year, when the commercial catch was below its quota, the recreational catch was very low and charter boat catches were the lowest since 1993, according to DNR.

The 13- to 19-inch blues being caught this year are from the 1995 and 1996 year classes, both of which will be sexually mature for the spawn offshore next summer.

And with the ability of individual females to produce 900,000 to 4.5 million eggs starting at age 2, the potential for a resurgence in Chesapeake Bay bluefish would seem to be bright.

Fishing updates

Windy weather and cooler temperatures could benefit rockfish anglers in the upper Chesapeake Bay. Stripers are beginning to concentrate along deeper edges where water temperatures should be warmer. The best method has been chumming, but look for breaking schools of larger rock on warmer days, and as surface waters cool, deep trolling will gradually become more effective.

Before the cold snap, Love Point, Hickory Thicketts and Hodges Bar had been reliable locations. The Susquehanna River at Conowingo Dam and the area between Logan's Wharf and Lapidum continue to produce nice rockfish.

In the middle bay, The Hill, Stone Rock, mouth of the West River, The Diamonds, The Flagpole and Gum Thicketts all can be expected to produce rockfish. Trollers working the western edge of the shipping channel in 35- to 40-foot depths should continue to do well from Parker's Creek to Randall's Cliffs.

Cooler water temperatures also can be expected to school up sea trout, and DNR reminds that sea trout and stripers were mixed in breaking schools over a few weeks last year at this time. Trout will be on the edges of the schools or beneath them, along with larger rockfish. White perch fishing remains very good from Thomas Point to Hacketts. Bluefish are still present in many areas.

Rockfish are readily available in the lower bay at Buoy 72, Point No Point Light and the Northwest Middle Grounds. Bluefish and rockfish are mixed at the mouth of the Potomac, and sea trout, speckled trout and rockfish are hitting in Tangier and Pocomoke sounds.

At Ocean City, striper fishing should be improving almost daily, with the jetties at the inlet a good location. Head boats are hitting sea bass, croaker and weakfish.

In fresh water, the blitz of big stripers has started at Liberty Reservoir. Dempsey Price of Westminster landed a 36-pounder and Mike Mandell of Reisterstown caught one of 31 pounds. The best area is from Nicodemus Road Bridge to the Route 140 bridge, where much of the shoreline is accessible to banks fishermen.

Piney Run Reservoir reports good catches of yellow perch and bluegill, and a few stripers.

At Loch Raven, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and crayfish are working well along shallow shorelines to catch bass.

Smallmouth bass fishing has picked up at Prettyboy with fish to 3 pounds hitting crayfish and small crankbaits along shallow shorelines and off rocky points.

On the upper Potomac River, smallmouth fishing has been improving steadily, with more and larger bass reported on tube lures, grubs, small spinners and live baits. Water levels remain low and fish can be expected to be concentrated in deeper pools.

At Deep Creek Lake, smallmouth bass to 2 pounds, smaller walleye and some pike provide most of the catches.

Fall trout fishing is picking up, with the Gunpowder levels up and chest wader recommended.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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