Chill sends big sea trout back to school

On The Outdoors

November 05, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The weather finally feels like early November should -- chilly and a bit blustery -- and Chesapeake Bay fishing patterns are finally settling into late-season form.

Since late summer, sea trout, bluefish and rockfish have been spread out in many areas of Chesapeake Bay and on the move. Over the past several days, however, chilly days and colder nights have dropped water temperatures into the 50s, and trout, blues and rockfish have begun to move to deeper and warmer waters.

Perhaps the biggest surprise over the past several days has been sea trout (weakfish) schooling tightly along deep edges from the mouth of the Patapsco River south to the Middle Grounds near the mouth of the Potomac River.

"We knew they were in the bay in good numbers, but they have been difficult to locate up until now," said Martin L. Gary, a Fisheries Service biologist who tracks catch reports weekly for the Department of Natural Resources. "In several locations baywide, weakfish showed up in angler reports. That wasn't terribly surprising. What was, however, was the presence of some huge tiderunner fish."

Tiderunners, Gary said, are sea trout that exceed 10 pounds, which have been uncommon catches among bay fishermen for many years.

But sea trout apparently are benefiting from larger net mesh sizes used by commercial fishermen these days, which allow more younger fish to escape and grow farther into their life cycle. Gary said most of the sea trout now being caught by recreational anglers are 16- to 21-inchers, and some have exceeded 28 inches.

Buddy Harrison, who runs Harrison's Chesapeake House and a fleet of charter boats on Tilghman Island, said one of the best locations for trout in the middle-to-upper Chesapeake Bay is the steep edge of the shipping channel along the Eastern Shore.

"They're there, from Bloody Point Light north along Kent Island," said Harrison. "There's rockfish on the top and trout under them."

DNR catch reports also indicate schools of trout along the deeper edges at the mouth of the Patapsco and Chester rivers.

The greatest concentrations of all three species, however, is along the eastern side of the ships channel from the HS Buoy to the Middle Grounds, with buoy 72 the hot lick over the past few days.

While the trout and rockfish are schooling, and the sea trout will be around for another week or two at least, bluefish soon will leave Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake for warmer waters. But for the present they are concentrated in impressive numbers from the Middle Grounds to Drum Point.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake: Sea trout are tightly schooled off the deep edges at the mouth of the Patapsco River and off Love Point, and the schools include some large trout. Deep-trolled bucktails or jigging are best. Rockfish remain something of a mixed bag, despite the past few days of colder weather. Chummers at Belvedere Shoals and the mouth of the Chester continue to attract many smaller rock for every keeper. Trollers working the Western Shore dropoffs from the mouth of the Patapsco to the 30-foot edge at Sandy Point Light, as well as above and below Poole's Island, are catching a better-size fish, although hook-ups can be widely spaced. Evening action in the shallows, which has been producing some larger rockfish for several weeks, probably will drop off as water temperatures fall and stripers school in deeper water.

Middle Chesapeake: Rockfish and sea trout headline the action from the Bay Bridges south to the mouth of the Patuxent River. At the mouth of the West River, chummers again are picking up a larger grade of rockfish, with catches to 34 inches reported over the last several days and fewer catches of smaller rock. Chummers at the Stone Rock, Diamonds, Summer Gooses and the Hill report they still are getting decent action from rockfish in the 18- to 22-inch range. Trollers working the western edges of the ship channel from Franklin Manor to Parker's Creek are getting hooked up more often on rockfish, and many of the catches reported are longer than 28 inches. Sea trout are schooled up in deeper waters, with DNR reporting that edges in the 50- to 70-foot range are good bets for deep trollers and jiggers. Areas to try include Flag Pond and Bloody Point. Bluefish appear to be on the move south to warmer waters.

Lower Chesapeake: DNR reports bluefish, sea trout and rockfish schooled along the eastern edge of the shipping channel. While chummers continue to do well, trollers have been hitting it big on sea trout to 32 inches, blues to 9 pounds and rockfish to 42 inches.

Ocean City inshore: The Route 50 bridge and the south jetty are the best bets for sea trout or rockfish, with increasing numbers of keeper rockfish 28 inches or longer and trout 9 pounds reported over the past week. Surf fishermen have reported the first of the chopper bluefish along with smaller blues, rockfish and small sea trout.

Ocean City offshore: Croaker, sea trout and some flounder on the near-shore shoals and sea bass over open bottom.

Pub Date: 11/05/98

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