The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board voted 11-4 at its October 30 meeting to implement a striped bass management option that requires an 18% reduction in both the recreational and commercial striped bass catch. Each member state (North Carolina to Maine) must comply with the reductions. The state of Virginia had already implemented its own emergency actions, which mandates a one fish bag limit and a 20- to 36-inch slot limit for the Chesapeake Bay recreational fishery and a one-fish, 28- to 36-inch slot limit for the coastal (Atlantic Ocean ) recreational fishery.
Striped bass are now the most abundant species in the Chesapeake Bay and are being caught from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel all the way up to the Susquehanna River. Most of the fish are schoolies measuring less than 20 inches. The size of the fish should improve as the water temperatures continue to fall, with the larger fish typically showing up around Thanksgiving with fishing improving into the month of January.
Lower Shore – Jeb Brady, at Bailey’s Bait & Tackle, reported that speckled trout fishing remained good through the week as long as the winds were not too strong. Both bayside and seaside anglers reported trout up to 23 inches. A few catches of puppy drum were made by anglers targeting the trout. The structure at the bridge-tunnel has produced a few catches of large sheepshead. Brady said that a few small striped bass have been caught along the lower bayside creeks and off the Cape Charles Fishing Pier but most have been under the 20-inch slot size.
Chris Snook, at Chris’ Bait & Tackle, reported that there have been a few sheepshead at the concrete ships off Kiptopeke. She said that the speckled trout fishery has “slacked off” some on the bayside but remains “pretty good” on the seaside. Anglers are seeing some small stripers on the bayside. She had not heard of any reports on flounder action.
Chincoteague – Pete Vasiliou, at Captain Steve’s Bait & Tackle, reported that striped bass have been caught in the back bay. Speckled trout continue to be caught inside and around the mouths of the creeks, particularly on the north side of the island. The few anglers who are still targeting flounder are enjoying some success in Chincoteague Channel and along the south side of the harbor. The surf is producing catches of bluefish and a few slot-size puppy drum. Vasiliou had not heard of anybody attempting to fish offshore over the weekend.
Upper Shore – Allan Ring, of the Seahawk Sports Center, reported that action in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay consisted primarily of rockfish, particularly in the shallows. Anglers were enjoying success by casting Bass Assassins on light jig heads. Anglers are starting to see schooling rockfish in a little deeper water, according to Ring. The larger schooling fish were hitting 1-ounce Faux Jigs with 5-inch paddletails. The schooling fish were found in the vicinity of submerged structures and along channel edges. Speckled trout action on the Maryland side of the state line had slowed down, with only a few trout taken over the last week. Ring did say that trout action on the Virginia side was still good, particularly down around Kiptopeke, with anglers enjoying success using jig heads with paddletails. White perch are being caught in the Maryland rivers as well as in Tangier Sound by anglers soaking bloodworm baits and casting small spinnerbaits.
A surf fishing team representing the Eastern Shore Anglers Club is in Hatteras, N.C., this week, participating in the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club’s Annual Surf Fishing Tournament, considered the World Series of Surf Fishing. This will be the 57th year the club has fielded a team for this tournament, winning the event three times. Look for the team’s final standing in next week’s column.
Bill Hall was the first Eastern Shore resident to achieve Virginia Salt Water Master Angler Status. He has been named Virginia Saltwater Angler of the Year and Virginia Saltwater Release Angler of the Year and is a Virginia Press Association award-winning sports columnist.