Early opening, weather pay dividends for rockfish anglers

On The Outdoors

May 06, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The spring season for rockfish often peaks early, as anglers get a shot at the last of the spawners leaving Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay. This year, with an early opening and cool, wet weather, the fishing has remained steady for nearly two weeks.

"In most years, we see a sharp decline in the numbers of larger fish caught after just a few days," said Martin L. Gary of the state's fisheries service. "That has not been the case this year."

According to Gary, who monitors recreational and charterboat activity, most boats that have been able to get out in the windy conditions of the past week are catching three to five keepers "and limits have not been unusual."

Distribution of keepers (28 inches or larger) also has been a bit unusual this year, Gary said.

"Prior to this year, certain areas were normally more predictable than others," Gary said. "Not so this year. Catches have been good from the bay bridges to Brewerton Channel and all through the mainstem south to the Triangle off Point Lookout."

Rockfish tournaments fished out of Chesapeake Beach and Tilghman Island last weekend and early this week bear out DNR reports.

Fred Donovan, a member of the tournament committee for the Rod 'N Reel Pro-Am fished out of Chesapeake Beach, said numbers and sizes of rockfish checked in were similar to last year.

The big fish of the tournament was caught by Bob Heilman aboard Capt. Bill Thompson's charterboat Residual. The 37.82-pound rockfish hit an 11/0 white bucktail trimmed with a white plastic shad.

Thompson was trolling in 36 feet of water off Chesapeake Beach. The lure was out 75 feet with 2 ounces of weight.

Seventeen of the top 21 fish weighed in at the Rod 'N Reel weighed 30 pounds or more.

"We had fantastic numbers of fish and more than 185 boats entered," Donovan said. "But in the interest of safety, we had to cancel fishing Sunday because of high winds."

On Tuesday, a dozen boats were fished out of Harrison's Fishing Center on Tilghman Island and the top two rockfish in the invitational pro-am weighed more than 30 pounds, including a 35.5-pounder caught by Penny Hope of Stevensville. Hope was fishing aboard Capt. Bud Harrison's charterboat Beaudacious.

Tournament results

Harrison's Pro-Am (place, angler, boat, weight): 1, Penny Hope, Beaudacious, 35.5 pounds; 2, Tom Hunter, Lady Peggy, 31.

Rod 'N Reel Pro-Am overall winner (place, angler, boat, weight, payout): 1, Bob Heilman, Residual, 37.82 pounds, $5,000.

Friday results, top 5: 1, Charles Marenka, Jennifer Ann, 34.91, $1,000; 2, Mike Bracey, May Belle, 33.37, $500; 3, John Homick, Carrie Sue, 33.30, $450; 4, Mike Stewart, Fish Tricks, 32.61, $400; 5, Phil Lamartina, Uncle Roy, 32.57, $350.

Saturday results, top 5: 1, Robert Simi, Zinfandel, 36.93, $1,000; 2, Sonny Forrest, Fin Finder, 36.76, $500; 3, Richard Poore, Naughty Lady, 36.10, $450; 4, Mike Stewart, Fish Tricks, 34.54, $400; 5, Wayne Knopp, Mae Belle, 33.55, $350.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake: The Susquehanna Flats catch-and-release season for rockfish closed Sunday. Catch-and-keep season north of a line from the mouth of the Patapsco River to Swan Point will open June 1. Mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay below that line is open in the meantime, and DNR reports rockfish action has been good for fish 28 inches or larger from the Bay Bridge to Brewerton Channel. Hickory shad run continues in Deer Creek, as well as in Octoraro Creek and North East Creek. White perch fishing has picked up in the Lapidum area of the Susquehanna, and catfish are being caught in good numbers in the Elk River.

Middle Chesapeake: The eastern edge of the shipping channel has been a good choice for rockfish from Gum Thickets to Bloody Point Light, while the western shore has been producing stripers from the Thomas Point area south to Chesapeake Beach and farther on to the Calvert Cliffs power plant and the gas docks. Catches have ranged through all levels of the water column from 35 feet out. White or chartreuse bucktails and parachutes seem to be most effective, but big spoons and plugs also are catching keepers.

Lower Chesapeake: A few bluefish to 8 pounds have been reported, but most of the activity has focused on rockfish, with the Triangle area off the mouth of the Potomac a hot area. Along the eastern side of the mainstem, the shipping channel edge from the HS Buoy to the HI buoy has been productive.

Ocean City: Bluefish are in the surf, inlet and back bays, with some to 9 pounds taking cut baits along the coastline. The back bay's been turning up blues to 24 inches on small artificials. Flounder catches should pick up again in the back bays if the winds stay down.

Tidal Potomac: Largemouth bass have moved onto spawning flats in many areas and hitting a variety of lures aggressively.


Gunpowder Falls: Water temperature is in the mid to upper 50s, and the river is low and clear. Some sulphurs, stonefies, caddis, blue-winged olives, blackflies and midges.

Morgan Run: Water temperature in the low to mid 50s. Emergers are a good choice in deeper pools.

Loch Raven Reservoir: Bass and pickerel along the weed beds, crappie and bluegill suspended near cove mouths and northern pike near the Warren Road Bridge.

Liberty Reservoir: Crappie are schooled in the coves and action has been fair for stripers up to 23 inches.

Prettyboy Reservoir: White perch and crappie in the Hoffmanville Road area, and smallmouth bass moving into the shallows.

Pub Date: 5/06/99

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