Salty waters mean variety for those fishing the bay

On The Outdoors

July 22, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Warm temperatures and high salinity in Chesapeake Bay have made it a good year for recreational fishing, and also are bringing some unusual species into Maryland waters.

"This year's salinity has brought the greatest finfish diversity we have seen in some time, particularly to the lower bay region," said Fisheries Service biologist Martin L. Gary, who tracks catch reports for the Department of Natural Resources.

In the past week, cobia, red drum and a few tarpon have been reported, although the tarpon turned up in pound nets off Lower Hooper Island.

Red drum (channel bass) will move well up the bay in hot, dry summers, but so far this year catch reports of small drum have been reported in the Cornfield Harbor area at the mouth of the Potomac River.

"We are still getting some reports of cobia up to 35 pounds from fishermen fishing for croaker," Gary said.

Although the odds of catching a tarpon in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake are high, the chances of catching cobia or red drum are much better.

Both will readily take crab baits, which are popular among bottom fishermen after croaker and sea trout.

Red drum are often found near underwater structures such as rock piles and oyster beds, while cobia are attracted to floating objects -- buoys, anchored boats, or weed-lines and debris.

One popular method for cobia is live-lining spot or croaker. Hook the bait through the back beneath the dorsal fin, return it to the water and let it swim free on an open spool or very lightly set drag.

When the reel begins to give up line quickly, set the hook and hold on, because the largest cobia can exceed 100 pounds.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake Bay: Live eels drifted in the cuts from Tea Kettle Shoal to Shad Battery Shoal have been catching rockfish to 32 inches, while trollers and chummers have had mixed success. Best trolling continues to be the 40-foot contour from Baltimore Light to Sandy Point, while chumming has been best off Belvedere Shoal and near Baltimore Light. Snake Reef and the oyster lumps off Gibson Island are good locations for white perch along with some croaker and spot. The North East, Sassafras and Elk rivers all are good bets for largemouth bass on plastics, spinners and live shiners. The Susquehanna River has been turning up rockfish in the 20-inch range and big catfish, but the best action there might be on smallmouth bass around islands and grass beds.

Middle Chesapeake Bay: Some Spanish mackerel have moved into this area, but catching them has been coincidental so far. Trollers working the 40- to 50-foot depths off the western shore have done well for rockfish, and chummers are having good success at the Gas Docks, Diamonds and the state reef off Tilghman Island. Bluefish to 3 pounds are scattered through the area. The hard bottom areas from Thomas Point Light to Tolly Point are a good choice for white perch, large to jumbo spot and croaker. Channel edges in Eastern Bay are good for croaker and spot, while the drop-offs around Poplar Island are good bets for croaker and flounder. The Gooses, James Island, the points in the lower Choptank River and the fishing piers at Cambridge also are good choices for croaker and spot. Sea trout are mixed with croaker at Cove Point and the Chinese Muds. Spot are hitting in the mouth of the Patuxent off the Naval Air Station and the spider buoy.

Lower Chesapeake Bay: Chummers have been doing well for 18- to 24-inch rockfish from buoy 72A to the Target Ship, and 2- to 3-pound blues are moving through the area along with smaller numbers of Spanish mackerel. From Hooper Island to the Mud Leads, croaker and sea trout have been very active each evening, with some of the sea trout measuring up to 27 inches. Croaker, flounder, red drum and spot are at the mouth of the Potomac. In Tangier Sound, croaker, sea trout and spot are mixed at Loon Hill, Island Rock, Kedges Strait and the Puppy Hole.

Ocean City: Flounder fishing continues to be good at the inlet, Route 50 bridge and in the back bays, with the airport and the convention center among the best locations. Medium croaker are plentiful from the Route 90 bridge to the inlet. Sea trout action has been best at the beginning of the rising tide in the evening. Offshore, bluefin tuna bite has been good at the Parking Lot and Lumpy Bottom. Billfish and yellowfin tuna are scattered from the 30 fathom line to the Canyons.

Upper Potomac River: The river continues to be very low, with temperatures in the mid 80s. Best fishing for smallmouths has been very early or late in the day. White miller hatch picking up in the evenings.

Deep Creek Lake: The evening bite for big bluegills continues to be good for around floating docks. Minnows drifted in 10 to 15 feet of water will catch smallmouth bass in the evening, and pickerel have been hitting shiners near grass beds.

Pub Date: 7/22/99

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