Fishing: Bluefish disrupting the chase for rockfish

This nice striped bass fell for a Smack- It Jr. popper near submerged rocks.

This nice striped bass fell for a Smack- It Jr. popper near submerged rocks.

Although it still feels like the dog days of August; September is now on the calendar and cooler nights are eventually in the forecast which will begin to tug at water temperatures.

There is some very exciting fishing in store for Marylanders as all kinds of fish will become more active.

The Bay Bridge continues to be a draw for many; as the bridge piers and the sewer pipe on the northeast side continue to hold striped bass.

One typically stages up current and drifting live spot, chunking fresh baits or jigging are all favorite tactics at these piers once it is determined at what depth the fish are suspended at.

In the middle bay region the live lining crowd has been flocking to the Gum Thickets area in recent weeks and it continues this week.

The 22-foot-edge tends to be one of the more productive depths for a mix of striped bass and bluefish. Most anglers are reporting that the bluefish can be thick at times and taking a toll on precious live baits.

Other channel edges in the area are also good places to set up on striped bass at times. It often takes a little exploring to find a group of fish suspended on the channel edges. Locations such as Thomas Point, the east edge of Hackett’s Bar, Bloody Point, the Hill and the Clay Banks are all good places to start looking.

There tends to be a good supply of spot for those who are savvy enough to find a good source. Most know to go shallow when starting to look for spot and finding good hard bottom such as sand or shell can go a long way to success also.

Once September starts to cool down and water temperatures begin to drop; spot are going to begin their southward migration.

At this point trolling and jigging will fill in as the preferred methods for catching striped bass. This action is already becoming noticeable as a mix of striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel harass schools of bay anchovies out in the bay. Most people who are trolling are using small spoons behind planers and inline weights and trolling along channel edges during good tidal current periods.

Light tackle shallow water fishing for a mix of striped bass and white perch continues to gain speed in most areas of the middle bay region; a good strong tide (flood tide being best) during the early morning and late evening hours is important.

Topwater lures tend to be a favorite for striped bass fishing due to the excitement of a surface strike and to keep from fouling lures in the grass but swim shads such as the Gulp Mullet can be very effective.

The lower bay region continues to offer some exciting fishing opportunities this week for a variety of fish species. There is a mix of Spanish mackerel, striped bass and bluefish chasing schools of bait throughout the main part of the bay.

The western shipping channel edge from Cove Point to Point Lookout is providing much of the action for boats trolling spoons behind inline weights and planers.

Light tackle jigging under breaking fish is becoming a more common occurrence as bait schools made up mostly of bay anchovies are being harassed by a mix of bluefish, Spanish mackerel and striped bass.

Often the melee can be spotted by diving birds but slicks can reveal underwater action.

Bottom fishing for a mix of croaker, large spot and small bluefish has been very good in the general area around the mouth of the Patuxent River and Tangier Sound.

Recreational crabbers are seeing better catches this week as more crabs reach adult size and put on some heft. Water temperatures are still warm enough for at least one more molt so those wonderful late September crabs that are extra large and full are much anticipated.

Generally speaking recreational crabbing in the upper bay is fair at best and good in the middle and lower bay regions.

The Ocean City area continues to offer good surf fishing opportunities for a summer mix of small bluefish, croaker, kingfish and flounder. Inshore sharks are also offering fun catch and release fishing. In and around the inlet, fishing for flounder and croaker has been good during the day and bluefish are being caught mostly at night.

In the back bay channels leading to the inlet flounder are being caught this week with a mix of croaker, blowfish and small bluefish.

Outside the inlet at the inshore wreck and reef sites the fishing for large flounder continues to be excellent. Most boats are returning to the dock with limits around the rails for their fishermen.

Sea Bass fishing remains fair with legal sized fish being hard to come by. Out at the canyons some of the charter boats returned to port boasting of double digit releases on white marlin this past weekend. A mix of dolphin, bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna and blue marlin tend to round out the catches so far this week.

Keith Lockwood has been writing the Fishing Report since 2003 and has had a long career as a fisheries research biologist since 1973. He is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, family and life on the Eastern Shore.

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