Cool weather should goose appetites of bay rockfish

On The Outdoors

September 24, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The arrival of at least a few days of cool temperatures this week should begin to turn on the rockfish bite, especially in the upper and middle Chesapeake Bay where big keepers have been hard to come by the past few weeks.

Unusually warm water temperatures for mid-September are the reason the rockfish bite has been off, according to DNR Fisheries biologists.

"The lull in the striper [rockfish] bite appears to be bay wide," fisheries biologist Martin L. Gary said. "This may likely be attributed to the unusually high water temperatures we have been experiencing. With water temperatures hovering near 80 degrees still, the metabolic costs for stripers to be actively chasing food items is great. These fish are in an energy-conservation mode."

Many rockfish being caught are thin and have empty stomachs, according to DNR, despite the presence of abundant bait fish. This condition apparently is caused by a natural tendency to conserve energy, rather than lack of food sources or disease.

"A drop in water temperature into the low 70s should surely get the stripers moving and feeding again," Gary said. "That, however, may take a couple of good frontal passages."

Record black fin caught

Maryland's ocean waters are at the northern limit of the range of black fin tuna, but last week an Ohio angler caught a 36-incher weighing 31 pounds to set a state record.

Ray L. Butcher was chunking at the Hot Dog on Sept. 16 aboard the charter boat Miss Caroline when the record fish was caught. Black fin tuna is a new category in the state's Atlantic Coast Division.

The average black fin caught in equatorial and tropic waters runs 10 pounds or under, and the IGFA world record is 42 pounds, 8 ounces.

Fall tournament winners

Steven Barko of Solomons won the rockfish division in the recent Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association fall tournament with a catch weighing 16.81 pounds.

Bruce Coulson of Taylor's Island won the bluefish division with a 6.95-pounder and was the top money winner with $2,295.60

Tournament results (top 3 per category):

Rockfish -- 1. Steven Barko, Solomons, 16.81, $965.60; 2. Robert Rackey, Dunkirk, 16.32, $603.50; 3. Edward Swartz, Davidsonville, 16.13, $362.10.

Bluefish -- 1. Bruce Coulson, 6.95, $965.60; 2. Anthony Jaskulski, 5.99, $603.50; 3. Edward Okunak, McLean, Va., 5.69, $362.10.

Skill levels

$50 rock -- 1. Robert Rackey, 16.32, $875; 2. Edward Swartz, 16.13, $525; 3. Norman Baldwin, 15.59, $350.

$100 rock -- 1. Edward Swartz, 16.13, $1,330; 2. Dave Arnett, Essex, 15.07, $798; 3. Bruna Vasta, 14.87, $532.

$50 blue -- 1. Bruce Coulson, 6.95, $595; 2. Edward Okunak, 5.69, $357; 3. Carl Resnick, Lusby, 5.47, $238.

$100 blue -- 1. Bruce Coulson, 6.95, $735; 2. Edward Okunak, 5.69, $441; 3. Dave Arnett, 5.29, $294.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake: With the rockfish bite off somewhat, good numbers of bluefish in the area have been taking up some of the slack, along with bottom fishing for white perch and spot. Cooling water temperatures should pick up the rockfish action. Chumming and trolling main bay creek and river entrances are likely to turn up good numbers of rock, although many probably will be under the 18-inch minimum for keepers. Trolling 30- to 36-foot depths may turn up larger rock but fewer numbers. Casting to breaking fish, too, will provide a lot of catching but little keeping -- unless lures can be worked beneath the hordes of 12- to 14-inch stripers at the surface.

Middle Chesapeake: Chumming for rockfish late in the day has worked well for anglers at the Diamonds, The Hill and The Stone Rock. Trollers continue to do reasonably well along the western edge of the shipping channel in 30- to 40-foot depths, and casting to breaking fish remains a good alternative. Bluefish, however, are providing more consistent action, with casters taking 2- to 3-pounders and trollers and chummers picking up the occasional 10-pounder. Bottom fishing for spot is good at the mouth of the Choptank River, and white perch are reliable from Thomas Point Light to Tolley Point. Flounder are present in very good numbers along the eastern edges from James Island to Poplar Island and in Eastern Bay, although the majority are under the new 15-inch minimum.

HTC Lower Chesapeake: Bluefish and rockfish headline the action near Point No Point and from Buoy 72 south to the Target Ship, where chumming seems to be the best method. Bluefish to 10 pounds have been taken from chum lines and by trollers. Flounder along the eastern edge from Punch Island to the HS Buoy and at Cornfield Harbor. Spotted sea trout at Smith and Bloodsworth Islands in the shallows.

Ocean City inshore: Sea trout to 7 pounds and rockfish to 34 inches at the South Jetty and the Route 50 bridge. Flounder catches are up, but numbers of keepers are down. Rockfish, small blues, spot and weakfish in the surf along with occasional big red drum.

Ocean City offshore: Yellowfin tuna bite is improving, with DNR reporting increasing numbers due to move down from the north. Lots of wahoo and dolphin action. Croaker on the inshore shoals and sea bass on the open bottom.

Susquehanna River: Rockfish for trollers or casters off Lapidum, Idiot Alley, I-95 bridge, near the Crab Shack and off the VA Hospital. Catfish and smallmouth bass action very good.

Tidal Potomac River: Main river grass beds, Wilson Bridge, Spoils and Smoot Bay all are good for largemouth bass.

Upper Potomac River: Low water and extensive submerged vegetation, but smallmouth bass action has been very good, with tube lures and grubs working well.

Deep Creek Lake: Walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth and rock bass in 12- to 14-foot depths, where drifted minnows work well. Pickerel active in the upper lake.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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