The arrival of a weather system last Thursday brought high winds and lower temperatures for the first half of the weekend, but decent fishing had returned by Sunday, lasting through Monday. I don’t see such a quick rebound following the predicted arrival of a severe cold front on Tuesday, bringing some cold precipitation and nighttime forecasts of temperatures in the 20s and a daytime high in 30s on Wednesday. This front could very well put an end or at least a lengthy pause in action for most of the warmer water species such as sea mullet (whiting), spot, puffers, and gray trout. Slot-sized red drum were still in abundance as far north as the Ocean City Inlet last weekend. If the water temperatures rebound before these fish pass us, these fish as well some of the more hardy speckled trout could stick around until the next bout of cold weather.
On the positive side, lower water temperatures should result in the earlier than normal arrival of a larger class of rockfish, as well as improved tautog action in the lower bay and over the inshore wrecks. Striped bass fishing effort has been very light for the first part of the season, most likely due to the one fish per person bag limit.
Upper Shore – Captain Matt Abell, at the Seahawk Sports Center, told me that the rockfish were leaving their shallow water haunts and settling into the more temperature consistent deeper water. Captain Abell’s recent striped bass charter parties have enjoyed consistent action near the mouth of the Nanticoke River by casting Faux Jigs with Bass Assassins and jigging n the deeper holes in the creeks inside of Smith Island with Got-Cha Jigfish and Crippled Herring jigs. Fellow Seahawk employee Alan Ring was enjoying success on rockfish by concentrating over structure on the north side of Tangier Sound. Both the creeks and the open waters were producing fish in excess of the 19-inch minimum Maryland size limit, with most of the kept fish measuring in the 25- to 26-inch class. Surface water temperatures were down to 54 on Sunday and were expected to fall though the week. Abell noted that speckled trout appear to have already vacated the Maryland bay waters. Black perch were being caught around the mouth of the Pocomoke River as well as inside some of the creeks just south of the Maryland/Virginia state line, while crappie were cooperating inside the freshwater sections of the rivers.
Chincoteague – Jimmy Vasiliou, at Captain Steve’s Bait & Tackle on Maddox Boulevard, reported that rockfish were being caught around the bridges of the causeway as well as the bridge to Assateague. A few gray trout, some measuring up to 20 inches and red drum were pulled from the surf prior to the mid-week temperature crash. Vasiliou added that a “few” flounder were still around on the inside. Offshore, false albacore were busting bait on the surface over the wrecks, while black sea bass were being caught on both the inshore and offshore wrecks. Some tautog, black sea bass, and bluefish to 18 inches have been caught over the structures on Blackfish Banks. Vasiliou, Mark Wheatley, Luke Mitchell, and John O’Reilly enjoyed a successful outing with Captain Allen Mitchell aboard the Pipe Layer, landing limits of black sea bass, plus bluefish, while fishing over an offshore wreck. Vasiliou had not heard of any recent speckled trout action but did say that the shop was stocked with fresh small spot for bait.
Lower Shore – Mark Snook, at Chris’ Bait & Tackle, said that there were still speckled trout and puppy drum around, with speckles providing action off Kiptopeke. “ Other than that, I have not heard of anything going on,” he added.
Jeb Brady, at Bailey’s Bait & Tackle on Cape Charles, told me that angers are reporting that the speckled trout action has started to slow but there were still some nice-sized fish around. Schoolie rockfish were being caught along the Chesapeake shorelines, but very few have been big enough to keep. Some smaller-sized tautog have been caught around the concrete ships off Kiptopeke State Park and along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Brady said that he expects the size of the togs to get larger as the water temperatures continue to cool.
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.