Anglers who have been targeting rockfish on the Chesapeake Bay during the fall season might consider a change of venue this weekend, because the big stripers are hitting at Liberty Reservoir and Ocean City, while most of the bay catches have been rockfish in the 18- to 24-inch range.
At Liberty Reservoir above Baltimore, over the past 12 days, 28 freshwater stripers of more than 15 pounds have been checked in at Old Reisterstown Bait and Tackle, including five that exceeded 30 pounds.
Jerry Sauter of Catonsville checked in a 40-pounder last Thursday and a 39-pounder Friday. Sauter twice set the state record for freshwater stripers before Travis Henkins of Westminster broke it earlier this year with a 41-pound, 6-ounce catch at Liberty.
Sauter said Thursday he had a record-breaker to the side of the boat before the fish broke off.
The best striper fishing at Liberty is in the upper end of the reservoir, where much of the shoreline is accessible to bank fishermen. Best baits are jumbo shiners, large plugs or bucktails.
At Ocean City, meanwhile, the fall run of rockfish is on, with anglers catching stripers from the jetties, inlet piers, the Route 50 bridge and from boats working the inlet.
According to Department of Natural Resources catch reports, the largest stripers, ranging to 40 inches, have been taken from the south jetty by anglers drifting live eels on fish-finder rigs.
Wind Cheaters, bucktails and live spot fished in the inlet have been working well for smaller keepers. The minimum size limit is 28 inches in Maryland's Atlantic waters and coastal tributaries.
Martin Gary of DNR's Fisheries Division said this is the start of what normally is a three- to four-week run of coastal stripers.
On the Chesapeake Bay, many of the rockfish being caught by trollers, chummers and bottom fishermen are from the enormous 1993 year class and largely range from 18 to 23 inches.
On the upper bay, trollers have been taking some 25-inch-plus stripers at Love Point, Belvedere Shoals, the mouth of the Patapsco River and Worton Point, but the bulk of the catches have been smaller fish.
In the middle bay, chummers at the Stone Rock, Diamonds, Gooses, mouth of the West River and the Hill have been catching large numbers of rockfish. But here, too, the majority of fish caught appears to be from the 1993 year class. However, trollers working the edges along the western shore from West River to Parker's Creek report fair numbers of 28-inch-plus stripers.
According to the DNR, large numbers of larger stripers are still in the rivers and will not move to deeper and warmer bay waters until water temperature drops at least another 5 degrees.
Sea trout are providing decent fishing at Thomas Point, Hacketts, Gum Thickets and the Bay Bridge, and white perch are abundant from Thomas Point to Hacketts.
The best bet for rockfish in Maryland bay waters is the lower bay, where recreational boats and charter boats from the western and eastern shores are chumming up limits of 19- to 23-inchers at Point No Point Light, Southwest Middle Grounds and the eastern edge of the shipping channel from Buoy 72 south.
A quick trip out of Crisfield with captains Curtis Johns and Keith Ward on Johns' new 50-footer Karen Ray II produced a handful of nice rockfish while trolling the Puppy Hole in 30 knots of wind and confused seas. But Johns and Ward agreed Tuesday the best ticket for rock is chumming on the Middle Grounds.
Some bluefish are scattered through the lower bay, but most have moved south. The best sea trout catches have been at the Mud Leads.
Small boat fishermen and fly anglers should try the shallows of Tangier Sound for stripers and speckled trout.
In fresh water, water levels are about normal on the upper Potomac, and smallmouth bass fishing has been good on tubes, small spinners or live bait.
For trout anglers, the olive hatch has been improving on the Gunpowder in the afternoons.
At Morgan Run, the water temperature is down to 46 degrees and terrestrials are working.
In Western Maryland, the delayed harvest area of the Casselman River is open with a two-fish per day limit through the end of the year, and the North Branch of the Potomac, the Savage River and the Youghiogheny River all are providing good to excellent trout fishing.
Pub Date: 10/30/97