Fishing Report: Crabs going deep, catches dropping off

10-16 Fishing Column

Anna Estremsky holds up a beautiful speckled trout she caught near Hooper’s Island while fishing with her dad.

Fishermen who were out on the water last Wednesday morning or anyone else who was up and happened to look at the western sky a little after 6 a.m. was treated to a lunar eclipse. The October moon is also labeled as the Hunter’s Moon by Native Americans and was a signal to them that they better start hunting in earnest and begin putting up meat for the winter months.

October usually heralds in a time of exciting light tackle striped bass fishing and so far fishermen have not been disappointed as schools of striped bass and bluefish are busy chasing bait that is beginning to move out of the tidal rivers.

A large percentage of the bait being encountered are bay anchovies along with a mix of small menhaden and silversides. Later on this month young of the year river herring and hickory shad will be exiting the tidal rivers in small scattered schools.

Diving birds often mark the action but slicks can also lead the way to good jigging action with metal jigs or bucktails. A good depth finder is often as important as having a bird dog when upland game hunting and will reveal suspended fish.

A good pair of binoculars can also be very helpful when scanning the horizon for bird action. Charging up on a group of fishermen and breaking fish is a sure way to receive a lot of stink eye and perhaps a few well placed comments if in ear shot so it is best to move in slowly upwind, turn the motor off and drift into the action.

Trolling a mixed spread of bucktails, spoons and surge tube lures behind planers or inline weights is a very good option and channel edges often offer the best action. Trolling near breaking fish is usually productive but be cautious of fishermen who are casting or jigging on the same fish and never troll directly through breaking fish; a sure way to put them down and curtail the action.

Lures can be trolled in tandem, single or behind an umbrella rig and once the bluefish move out swim shads are a real plus on bucktails; Storm Shad type lures are also an excellent choice. Deep diving crankbaits and similar hard baits are also a great choice when trolling a few flat lines.

Water temperatures have now dipped below the 70-degree mark and the downward decline will continue. There are still some spot to be caught in the lower sections of the middle and lower bay regions but those that have not left yet are certainly getting ready to.

The mouth of the Nanticoke and Honga Rivers are holding some spot but a depth finder is needed to locate them; the same holds true for Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds and the lower Patuxent River.

The schools of spot are often densely packed so the catching can be really good. White perch can also be mixed in at some locations. The white perch fishing along shoreline structure has been good but cooling water temperatures will soon drive them to deeper waters.

Sunny afternoons tend to warm shallower waters up enough to make for better fishing opportunities for white perch.

The lower bay region tends to hold the best promise for anyone wishing to load up their smoker with one more batch of bluefish before they depart completely. Most bluefish being encountered in the middle and lower bay region are small but the Middle Grounds area is holding bluefish up to 5 pounds in size.

There are also some flounder, red drum and speckled trout being caught in the lower bay region at locations such as Point Lookout, Hooper’s Island and the Tangier/ Pocomoke Sound area.

Water temperatures are in the mid-60s in most of the tidal rivers and recreational and commercial crabbers that trot line are reporting the crabs are deep and catches are dropping off considerably. Typically once water temperatures hit the 60 degree mark most trot line and collapsible trap crabbers pack it in for the season.

Bottom temperatures in most areas are running close to surface temperatures so a defined thermocline has not developed yet in most areas.

Water temperatures in the Ocean City area have finally dropped below 70 and many fisheries are transitioning. Small bluefish are still being caught in the surf on finger mullet along with kingfish, small black drum and flounder.

A few large red drum are being caught and released in the surf of Ocean City and Assateague. At the inlet flounder are pouring through on their way offshore for the winter. Tautog and sheepshead are being caught along the jetties and bulkheads on sand fleas and pieces of green crabs.

The channels leading to the inlet are flounder highways this week and catches have been some of the best of the season.

At the inshore wreck and reef sites large flounder are being caught by party boats and private boats fishing with Gulp baits or strip baits.

There have been plenty of sea bass taking swipes at baits and if they keep that up after October 18th they might find themselves being tossed into an ice chest.

Farther offshore in the canyon regions dolphin have been plentiful and at times boats are finding some large yellowfin tuna.

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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