Fishing Report: It’s that light-tackle fishing time of year

As each day rolls by, most of us start to notice things are changing such as a scarcity of daylight in the mornings when we get up to head off to work or that we can’t quite get as much done in the yard before dark when we get home from work.

The season is changing as evidenced by color starting to show in trees, the arrival of geese and certainly the cooler temperatures; all in line with the rhythm of the seasons and our entry into October.

This is indeed a very special month for the outdoors in Maryland so please make some preparations to enjoy it to its fullest.

Activities such as taking children for a hike in the fall woods, canoeing down a secluded waterway to bath in the colors and sounds of fall or getting out and doing some fishing, there are countless things to enjoy in the outdoors of Maryland.

Fishing Column 10-9

Jeff Kellner holds up a really nice sheepshead he caught at the Ocean City Inlet.

The fall trout stocking program is underway and stocked trout and kids just naturally go together. Striped bass are schooling up in the Chesapeake as they chase schools of baitfish providing for some of the finest light-tackle fishing to be experienced anywhere.

There is plenty of action in the middle bay region this week; water temperatures are dipping to the 70-degree mark and it is even lower in the tidal rivers.

A mix of bluefish and striped bass are chasing schools of bay anchovies and small menhaden in the tidal rivers and bay. Trolling spoons, bucktails and surge tube lures are a very popular and productive method to fish and channel edges are one of the better places to troll.

More and more schools of feeding fish are being encountered, either on the surface or suspended. Diving birds are always a good sign, but slicks are also a valuable clue to look for. The edges of the shipping channel, the mouth of Eastern Bay and all of the tidal rivers in the region are excellent places to look for a mix of bluefish and striped bass.

Light tackle jigging and casting to breaking fish is coming into its own this week as the striped bass start exhibiting a typical fall pattern of behavior.

Metal jigs are a favorite now because of the presence of bluefish but once they move out soft plastic jigs will become more popular.

The shallow water fishing for striped bass has been good in many areas with good current flow and structure.

Topwater lures are always a favorite for this type of fishing to reduce grass fouling and the excitement of surface strikes; a high flood or high ebb tide often offers the best fishing opportunities. Fishing for white perch in these same areas has been good recently and quarter-ounce spinners cast near shoreline structure with ultra-light tackle is a fun way to catch them.

Beetle spin type lures and small jigs tipped with a piece of bloodworm are also very effective. A simple one hook bottom rig or jig head baited with grass shrimp of bloodworm worked around dock piers is also a good tactic.

There are still some spot in the lower sections of most of the regions tidal rivers and many of them are fairly large. Those who still wish to live line spot are finding a few in the shallower areas of the tidal rivers. There are also a few croaker still around and white perch can also be part of the bottom fishing mix.

The lower bay region tends to be holding a lot of bluefish this week and also the largest specimens to be found in Maryland waters. Some of the bluefish being caught are 5 ponds or better.

Trolling a mix of spoons and surge tube lures behind planers and inline weights has been a very popular way to catch a mess of bluefish. The edges of the shipping channel and channel edges in the lower Potomac as well as Tangier Sound and the Middle Grounds are all excellent places to troll.

There are striped bass to be caught in the region but a fair percentage are coming up short of the 18-inch minimum out in the bay. A larger grade of striped bass are being caught in the shallows and channel edges in the region’s tidal rivers such as the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers on topwater lures and jigs.

The large spot and croaker continue to be holding at the mouth of the Patuxent River and the Tangier/Pocomoke Sound area this week as they start to think about heading south.

The spot are nice large bronze backed specimens and it is not uncommon to be able to fill up an ice chest with them in short order. Bloodworms on a bottom rig are the best option for catching them.

Flounder are also being caught near Point Lookout Rip, Cornfield Harbor and the shoal edges near channel areas in Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds.

Ocean City-area fishing is undergoing some noticeable changes this week. Water temperatures are declining and flounder are starting to move out of the back bay areas and head for the Ocean City Inlet.

The next week or so will most likely offer some of the best flounder fishing opportunities in the channels leading to the inlet. Surf fishing is focusing mostly around catching small bluefish on finger mullet rigs, a few short striped bass and some catch and release fishing for red drum.

At the inlet there is good fishing for a mix of sheepshead and tautog around the rocks and bulkheads. Sand fleas and pieces of green crab are the baits being used.

The boats heading out to the wreck and reef sites continue to bring excellent catches of flounder back to the docks.

Sea bass are still off limits until Oct. 18, so besides flounder, triggerfish, blowfish and the occasional tautog are rounding out the mix for fishing on party boats.

The boats heading out to the canyons are catching a lot of dolphin and a large portion of them are gaffers. They are being found along weed lines and when anglers are able to keep them behind the boat; the spinning gear comes out and small jigs with bait strips can fill up a fish box quickly.

Some long fin albacore have been caught as well as a few bigeye tuna at Poorman’s and Washington Canyons and there are white marlin being caught and released at the Norfolk Canyon.

 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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