Wild Chesapeake: Drum, Specks, Cats, Bows, and Turkeys

Captain Chris D. Dollar writes the Wild Chesapeake column in Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Here, he brings up-to-date insight and advice to Bay Bulletin readers. Check in weekly to find out what’s happening in the wild.

What’s happening, CBM sporting folks!

This week, I received solid reports of the return of our summer visitors, especially flounder, drums and specks.

Cool Catch of the Week: John Poyle of Mercersburg, PA, and his 41-inch rockfish with a transponder inserted in its belly. Tagged off Massachusetts in 2015, Poyle landed the rock while fishing with Captain Jeff Popp on Vista Lady off Kent Island.

John Poyle of Mercersburg, PA caught this nice 41” rockfish, a fine spring trophy, that was tagged off of Massachusetts three years ago, and caught off Bloody Point, MD. Photo: Vista Lady Charters

Trollers fishing Maryland’s trophy rockfish season, which ended yesterday, say white was the hot color. Everyone is down-sizing their spreads since, effective today through October 12, the size limit for stripers dropped to 19 inches in Maryland’s part of the Chesapeake and some tidal tributaries. Creel remains two rock per day, only one of which can be over 28 inches. Sport anglers live-lining or chumming must use circle hooks. Note: You cannot take rockfish from rivers or creeks that remain closed until June 1. Check the DNR map for specifics.

The season’s first speckled trout have been caught in Pocomoke and Tangier sounds. Cast paddle tails with contrasting heads and tails or light-tackle, slow-trolling bucktail-style lures around the eelgrass beds. 

After day one of Chris’ Bait & Tackle Black Drum Chase in Cape Charles, an 80 pounder is in the lead. That has drum fans flocking south and east to get in on the action. Clams and crabs are the best baits. In Maryland, we’re awaiting the first catches by sport anglers. 

Off the Virginia barrier islands, the bull (trophy) red drum run has been spectacular, albeit truncated due to wind and weather. My regular contacts were understandably evasive in sharing exact location and specific lures and tides, but monster reds roamed taking big flies and swim baits, sometimes dressed with skirts.

Hey, Maryland coastal anglers: Sea bass fishing is open now through December 31. The creel limit is 15 fish per-person per-day with a 12.5-inch minimum size. Sticking on the seaside, my buddy Jamie led his Scout troop on a surf-casting trip on Assateague Island where they caught stripers up to 27 inches and a few bluefish. The Ocean City inlet has stripers and blues.

In upper tidal Bay waters, blue and other species of catfish are in play. The blue cat fishing has been good in the mouth of the Wicomico River.

Meanwhile, inland anglers are enjoying nice rainbow fishing in the Little Patuxent River and the Gunpowder on DNR-stocked trout. Try spinners in gold and bright purple. 

The American shad run is all but done, though perhaps still worth a shot at first and last light particularly at traditional spots like Fletchers Boat House on the Potomac and in the Susquehanna. Smaller cousins hickories were scarce this year, due to colder and lower than usual water levels in their spawning tribs. My trip to the Gunpowder was a bust.

Any doubts that snakeheads are in most Maryland waters are fading fast. This week, I’ve heard of catches in the Sassafras and Blackwater rivers. One of my customers caught a 17-incher in a Kent County farm pond.

The opening of the spring turkey season was tough for most Virginia and Maryland hunters, but perseverance paid off for those who put in the time. Pete Morris took a tom-turkey that tipped the scales at 24 pounds, eight ounces with an 11.5-inch beard and 1.75-inch spur. Beastly. It was a six-yard shot with his new Mathews Triax bow.

-Captain Chris D. Dollar