Is the dreary weather making you pine for just a few more hot, sunny days? Are the kids ready to go back to school? Have you squeezed every last drop of summer fun out of June, July and August?
It’s Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end to summer, and while my family didn’t get to everything on our to-do list, we crossed off a lot of items.
Last week, all of us took a “sick day” and spent one final and glorious afternoon on the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay, enjoying the sunshine (this is true since it happened to be perhaps the only sunny day in August) and catching fish.
We caught a mixed bag of short stripers, mackerel and bluefish with Capt. Bernie Shea aboard his spacious and comfortable vessel the Shea-D-Lady (301-672-3282).
Capt. Shea worked the areas under birds and found schools on his finder, and we did the hard work of reeling in the fish. Among our spoils were some large spot caught as afternoon turned to evening and we switched to bottom fishing.
Capt. Shea just finished 25 years as a firefighter on board Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Yesterday was his last day.
I think he’s feeling a little conflicted about retiring from federal employment, and that he’s worried he might miss his old job.
If you see him, you might want to inquire if he’s feeling wistful for the red tape of government bureaucracy or if the joy of skippering a boat on the bounty of Southern Maryland’s waters is worth the switch. Although, I think I know what his answer will be.
Southern Maryland lakes and ponds — Anthony Hancock, assistant manager of Gilbert Run Park in Dentsville, reports the bass are biting early in the morning and late in the evening on topwater lures.
During the daytime hours, the bass will hold near the defined grass edges and any wood cover near drop-offs. If you can find a spot where wood and grass cover are mixed together, that’s even better. Baits of choice are stickbait-type soft baits, jig-and-craw combos, shallow crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Sunny days make it easier to target the defined grass edges when wearing polarized fishing glasses.
Bluegill and redear sunfish are biting best further out past the weedline edges, although there are still panfish swimming near the shorelines as well. A small piece of worm or nightcrawler under a bobber is tough to beat and is a great way to introduce kids to fishing.
Patuxent River — According to Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park (301-863-8151), rockfish are in the river on structure in the shallows at dusk and dawn. Only about one of every 20 is the minimum 20 inches to keep. The big fish bite better at daybreak for lure casters and jiggers.
Potomac River — Black fly treatment in the form of spraying “Vectobac 12 AS” will commence on portions of the river in Washington County near Williamsport and from Harpers Ferry to Brunswick. If you see the plane overhead, prepare to get doused in it.
Relatively meager catches and a significant chunk of pros and co-anglers blanking on the first day characterizes the FLW Costa Tournament that wrapped up last weekend.
Life Outdoors Unlimited guide Ken Penrod (240-447-2206) cautions anglers not to read too much into the results. The combination of a cold front, high barometric pressure, unfavorable tide and the general August malaise created less-than-ideal tournament conditions.
Real Bass Adventures guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) said changing weather patterns are contributing to the difficulty of catching a good limit of bass. Searching vast grass beds takes time, but once a prime spot is located, stay put and fish it thoroughly with a variety of baits.
Popping grass frogs are a good search bait, and once bass are located, work small spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, swim jigs and finesse worms. Hard cover is still the most consistent producer when fished with slow-rolled spin baits. Marsh run-offs are always good for a few bass when targeted with down-sized crank baits, small jerk baits, and finesse worms.
LOU Guide Capt. Kenny Penrod (240-478-9055) recommends staying in key areas and fishing them thoroughly through a variety of tides. Trying different presentations might entice picky eaters to bite. Where you normally flip plastics, throw a Bigmouth Big Shakey. Where you throw a dropshot, try a swimbait.
Concentrate on bridge pilings, rip-rap, grass near drop-offs with current and docks. Watch for baitfish swimming near the surface. If you see them, bass will show up sooner or later.
Juniata and Susquehanna rivers (Pa.) — LOU guide Matt Greene (717-576-3735) said that with the recent cooler evenings, topwater action has picked up and when that is not working, a spinnerbait or swimbait jig can do the trick.
Lake Anna (Va.) — Cooler nights mean largemouth are moving into the creeks and holding on structure, stumps and brushpiles, according to Carlos from High Point Marina (540-895-5249). He recommends using the Rapala Scatter Rap, a lure that mimics the frantic, evasive pattern of scattering baitfish. The new lip gives the bait a violent, sweeping action and runs at a 6- to 9-foot depth.
Fish are also moving in and out of grassy areas where spinnerbaits are producing nice catches. Most of the striped bass action has been around Day’s Bridge in the Pamunkey Branch and Rose Valley in the North Anna. During the day, you can catch them by all manner of fishing. Trolling, casting, jigging and live bait all work.
Chesapeake Bay — Lamb reports Spanish mackerel in great numbers and most can limit out (10 per day) on these tasty fish using number two planers and size 0 drone spoons, silver on bright days and gold on cloudy.
Lamb recommends staying away from breaking fish since you’ll catch mostly undersized rockfish and look instead for bait balls on the depth finder. Troll around fast and the mackerel will respond. This goes for the Ship’s Channel from Smith Point to the Bay Bridge.
Capt. Kyle Johnson of Solid Rock Charters (240-538-5180) zeroed in on the big bull reds below the Target Ship last Friday and landed 17 fish from 20 to 50 pounds, both sight casting and trolling big spoons for the huge channel bass.
Cobia are part of the daily catch in the lower bay from 72A to Tangier Island. Bluefish are scattered about and measure mostly snapper-sized in the 14- to 20-inch range. Some bigger blues close to four pounds showed up at Hooper’s Island for trollers using small surgical eels.
Atlantic Ocean — The first longfins of the season were caught at 1,200 fathoms outside the Norfolk Canyon trolling ballyhoo. There are rumors of more catches, but no photographic proof, yet.
Fishing off the pier at Cape Henlopen State Park (Del.) is guaranteed to keep the kids busy and entertained with spot, croaker, flounder and sharks eagerly biting. Most are throw-backs, but keepers are in the mix.
Angler Jeff Nichols thought he’d caught a new Delaware state record for Spanish mackerel with his 6.39-pound fish. But biologists at the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife called him with bad news that the fish, after internal dissection and further study, was actually a king mackerel.
With that new information in hand, his fish was only about 42 pounds shy of breaking the state record for a king mackerel. Tough break for Nichols.
Tip of the week
From Ken Penrod: Friday begins the resident goose season, so “heads-up” river users. Stay away from obvious decoy spreads and a flashlight doesn’t mean someone is lost. It means “stay away because I’m shooting stuff.”