Wild Chesapeake: Debris, $244K, and a Huge Flathead Catfish

Expert angler and outdoorsman Captain Chris Dollar brings up-to-date insight to the Bay Bulletin. Check in weekly to see what’s happening out there right now.

I’ve lived here my entire life and cannot recall this much debris floating down the Chesapeake, with the possible exception of tropical storm Agnes, but I was just a kid then. It’s surreal how many lower-unit- and prop-killing logs, submerged tree trunks, stumps and bits of plastic trash are clogging up the Bay.

Still, from the West River to Rock Hall, people continue to catch rockfish, both chumming and on light tackle. At first or last light, try tossing plugs such as a Heddon Spook Jr., Stillwater Smack-it, or Rapala X-Rap to riprap, around points and creek mouths where the current sweeps hapless baitfish into the feeding lanes of waiting predator fish. Look for bluefish and some Spanish macks busting bait from Point Lookout to Chesapeake Beach. The Bay Bridges are attracting lots of boats, so the pressure on stripers is intense. Many fish are undersized, but there are enough keepers mixed in to attract anglers. Consider venturing away from crowds to fish smaller structure. White perch will hit perch bombs, spinners and peeler crabs or bloodworms. There are lots of catfish on the lumps leading into the Patapsco River.

 Over the weekend, Reel Tight decked a 404.50-pound blue marlin to win the 5th Annual Huk Big Fish Classic out of Talbot Street Pier in Ocean City, Maryland, netting the captain and crew $244,095. (Courtesy of  Huk Big Fish Classic)

Over the weekend, Reel Tight decked a 404.50-pound blue marlin to win the 5th Annual Huk Big Fish Classic out of Talbot Street Pier in Ocean City, Maryland, netting the captain and crew $244,095. (Courtesy of  Huk Big Fish Classic)

Along the Atlantic Coast, iffy weekend weather conditions kept small boat anglers at the dock, but the bigger boats that got offshore found plenty of mahi, some marlin, and a few tunas. The team on the 60-foot Paul Mann-built sportfishing boat Reel Tight decked a 404.50-pound blue marlin to win the 5th Annual Huk Big Fish Classic and $244,095. Brian Stewart reeled the fish in. Sixty-seven crews competed for a total of $462,000, a record payout for this contest. 

Virginia anglers continue to catch plenty of fish even though no one will be sad to see July’s weather go bye-bye. Rainy and breezy conditions limited the small boat fleet’s activity throughout the month, yet cobia numbers remained good with some fish weighing over 50 pounds despite less than ideal spotting conditions. As waters calm and clear, the action should pick up for sight-casting with lures. For fillets, your best bet chumming. 

The flounder action remains excellent over the ocean wrecks, and it’s pretty good in the Bay and local inlets as well. Go with big baits for the doormats.

Spadefish and sheepshead continue to hug the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel rocks and pilings. They’re also hanging around The Cell, an artificial reef located west of Hungars Creek on the bayside of the Eastern Shore.

Spanish mackerel fans are doing pretty well trolling fast with gold spoons along the oceanfront.

 Jeffrey E. Dill hooked this 68-pound, 12-pound flathead catfish while fishing Lake Smith near Virginia Beach to set the new state record for that species. (Photo courtesy of Oceans East/VA Dpt. of Game & Inland Fisheries)

Jeffrey E. Dill hooked this 68-pound, 12-pound flathead catfish while fishing Lake Smith near Virginia Beach to set the new state record for that species. (Photo courtesy of Oceans East/VA Dpt. of Game & Inland Fisheries)

Nighttime anglers are catching bull red drum using crab for bait, and we’ve seen proof of a couple of fly anglers with a huge redfish caught during daylight while under the guidance of Captain Chris Newsome (BayFlyFishing.com) near Virginia’s Middle Peninsula.

Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recently announced the certification of a new state record flathead catfish. Congratulations go to Jeffrey Dill who hooked the 68-pound, 12-ounce cat while fishing the 193-acre Lake Smith near Virginia Beach in March. Dill pulled in the leviathan from the 193-acre lake near Virginia Beach, which averages only five feet deep and supports a robust largemouth bass population, as well as white catfish, crappie, white perch, bluegill, and flatheads. So, there was no shortage of grub for that fat flathead to feast on.

Bay Bulletin