Hills to coast, weather has turned up the heat on fish

OUTDOORS

June 10, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The heat wave has made conditions for fishing good, better and best from the North Branch of the Potomac River in Western Maryland east to Chesapeake Bay and the waters of the Atlantic.

"The heat and current offshore have combined to bring us some great early-season action off Ocean City," said Martin L. Gary, a Fisheries Service biologist who tracks freshwater and saltwater fishing for the Department of Natural Resources.

"Thermal profiles offshore remain ideal. In fact, conditions more closely resemble mid- to late July than June."

Donnie Simon of Annapolis was fishing with Fred Ames on the Yankee Baba when they got a firsthand look at some of the excellent early-season fishing, hooking a state-record thresher shark near Massey's Canyon.

The shark, which took a whole false albacore, weighed 585 pounds and was 15 feet, 11 inches long. Its girth was measured at 68 inches.

Thresher sharks are a new category in the Maryland Sportfishing Tournament, so Simon's catch was the benchmark.

Other shark categories in which records may be set are blue, hammerhead, mako, sand tiger and tiger, Gary said.

"June really is the shark month during the season," said Gary, "and you will see a little bit of everything out there."

However, some shark species -- including dusky sharks -- cannot be boated under National Marine Fisheries Service guidelines. Check with NMFS regulations before targeting sharks.

The weather has been so unusual that several species of tuna were being caught off Ocean City in May, and the first white marlin of the season was hooked and released 10 days ago.

In Western Maryland, the Potomac has near record-low flows, and at marking stations near Washington, river flows are at 10-year lows.

Yet the fishing remains excellent in many areas, Gary said.

In Chesapeake Bay, the heat and lack of rain have made waters unusually salty, and croaker and sea trout already have moved above the Bay Bridge, an occurrence that often does not happen until late summer or early fall.

"And rockfish are really breaking loose from the mouth of the Chester River to Belvedere Shoals," said Gary.

The fishing report

Salt water

Upper Chesapeake: Chummers are doing very well on rockfish at the mouth of the Chester, while trollers have been doing well from southeast of Belvedere Shoals to Sandy Point Light, especially along 40-foot contours. Eels drifted in the deeper holes from the mouth of the Chester toward Swan Point also will work well for stripers. While croaker and sea trout have moved into the area, they are not heavily concentrated. White perch can be caught over hard bottom areas, but reportedly are not tightly schooled yet. The Susquehanna River, from the VFW onto the flats, has been good for rockfish averaging 24 to 26 inches. Try poppers for great topwater action, trolled hoses, bucktails or spoons and bloodworms or chicken strips for bottom fishing. Bass anglers also have been doing well for smallmouth and largemouth in the Susquehanna complex.

Middle Chesapeake: The run of black drum appears to be shaping up, with catches reported from the Stone Rock and the James Island flats and the Poplar Island area the next likely hot spot. Rockfish catches have been mostly in the 22- to 26-inch range, with occasional large fish caught. Trolling the 35- to 40-foot depths seems to be the best method. Croaker have moved into the Choptank and off the Patuxent. Good areas in the Choptank are 40- to 60-foot depths off Chlora, Todd, Cook and Benoni points. Some bluefish moving through the area. White perch action has been mixed along the Western Shore, but Eastern Bay is producing stripers, croaker, sea trout and flounder up to 20 inches along the deeper edges.

Lower Chesapeake: From the HI Buoy to the Target Ship, the eastern edge of the main channel has been turning up nice catches of rockfish. The western edge, meanwhile, also has been producing nice rockfish, with Cedar Point Hollow an excellent choice. Bluefish in the 20- to 24-inch range have been moving through and are active on top. The eastern edge also has been producing excellent croaker fishing, along with increasing numbers of sea trout. With the salinity high, anglers also might encounter the occasional red drum. A 48-incher was the biggest fish caught in the Hooper's Island Volunteer Fire Department tournament last weekend. Tangier Sound continues to have excellent sea trout and croaker action, and DNR biologists report spot in excess of 12 inches. Speckled trout have been moving into the shallows at dusk.

Ocean City: Sea trout at the piers, Route 50 bridge and inlet jetties and fair flounder action in the back bays. Stripers, small blues, sea trout, kingfish, skates and small sharks in the surf. Offshore, Mako and blue sharks from Washington to Poor Man's canyons. False albacore and spanish mackerel at the Jackspot. Headboats doing well for sea bass.

Fresh water

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