Wild Chesapeake: Dangerous Cold, Wind Mean Staying Inland

Chesapeake outdoor guide Captain Chris Dollar brings up-to-date insight to the Bay Bulletin. Check in weekly to see what’s happening out there.

This International Game Fish Association news item caught my eye: “On December 30, 2018 eleven-year old Dylan O’Connell caught and released a 48-pound, 8-ounce red drum while fishing on Ocracoke Island. The lad needed just 20 minutes to land the potential record redfish, which, if approved, will become the new male junior world record that currently stands at 37 pounds.”

Here on the Bay, some anglers are still fishing for stripers. I’m not among them. I’ll sit in a duck blind to endure the bitter weather, but I’ll pass on striper fishing ‘til spring.

Lily & Hunter Hammond, in Queen Anne’s County with Lily’s first goose. (Courtesy Photo)

Monday greeted us with steady, 20-knot-plus winds from the northwest with gusts over 40, strong enough for NOAA’s Weather Service to issue a gale warning and too strong for some waterfowlers whose blinds or boats would be exposed. Meanwhile, field hunting for geese is in full swing, and I’ve been told it’s a mid-morning flight pattern for much of the Eastern Shore.

If waterfowl hunting isn’t your passion, birding could be. The full complement of waterfowl, eagles and other winter visitors can now be viewed at places such as Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary on the Patuxent River, or even along your local shoreline. It’s one of top outdoor pastimes and a great way to spend a winter’s day.

Resident stripers are holding at the mouth of the Severn River and they might hit slow-jigged soft plastic lures as did the larger rockfish down the Bay, which my friend in the Point Lookout area reported ranged from 25- to 40-inches. Bay striper fishing is strictly catch-and-release until April 20 when the spring trophy season opens. The basic principal for successful cold-water fishing is to work your lures slowly and deliberately. Fish need to eat but also they must also conserve energy, so strikes are usually subtle. I recommend braided lines and tackle in the 15- to 20-pound class.

This is a great time of year for crappie, yellow perch and chain pickerel fishing on ponds and reservoirs. The hitch is skim ice, which will complicate things. If you find open water, consider one of my go-to setups for panfish success—a dropper rig with bull minnows or grass shrimp pinned to light, round-headed, marabou-feather jig-heads—one an electric chartreuse, the other a deep purple. I like spinnerbaits or flies for the pickerel.

With the ice, wind and cold, we must be extra careful around the water. Don’t trust the ice to hold you until you are sure it’s a solid four inches thick, and even then, proceed with extreme caution.

Hope to see y’all at The Baltimore Boat Show’s Go Fishing Friday, January 25 at the Baltimore Convention Center. I’ll present two seminars (1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.) on fishing for rockfish, red drum, cobia and speckled trout, and at 6:30 p.m., Chesapeake Light Tackle author Shawn Kimbro will walk you through his Chesapeake and panfish techniques. The show will have fishing prizes and a virtual fishing tournament that day as well. The show runs through Sunday.