Wild Chesapeake: Ducks, Deer & Fish for Fall

Photo: Capt. Chris D. Dollar

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.

Before we get to the fishing forecast, the first split of Maryland’s duck season opened this past Sunday and runs through Oct. 20th. Virginia’s brief October split is closed and reopens in late November. I’m headed to the marsh on Wednesday morning, so hopefully, I’ll have good news to share. Maryland’s popular muzzleloader opens October 18, in Deer Management Regions A and B, and runs through Oct. 20th. Region A consists of Garrett, Allegany and western Washington counties; Region B is the rest of the state. Hunters in Region B can also use muzzleloaders from Oct. 22-27 for antlerless deer only.

I cannot claim this as a fact, but I believe it to be true that the western shore topwater bite is better than on the Eastern Shore, at least in my neck of the woods from Bloody Point north. No doubt the past couple of weeks have been tough for me in Eastern Bay and the Chester River, mainly because I’ve had to reschedule trips because of the snotty weather. Some days, many of us have had to run the boat further than expected some to find clean water. And oh, did I mention the tides have been fickle?

Strong winds continue to stifle anglers, and you definitely have to be at the right place at the right time to enjoy a hot bite for the last of the blues and rockfish. If you hit it right, the striper action can be pretty good, whether trolling with tandem three- and five-ounce bucktails or swim baits such as the Tsunami in “Mountain Dew” color or spotted bunker, jigging or casting for topwater action. Captain Randy Dean on the Bay Hunter and other charter skippers continue to live-line spot with good success. Captain Shawn on the head-boat Miss Lizzy and Wound Tight is working hard to get his clients fillets. 

Poplar Island waters have been productive for anglers casting metal jigs and soft plastics to bluefish and stripers. Meanwhile, off of Point Lookout, Captain Mike of Buzz’s marina and others have enjoyed an exceptional trolling and jigging for Spanish mackerel and blues, with a better grade of rockfish showing up. I cannot imagine that the macks will not be trucking south very soon, if not already, with nighttime temps in the 50s.

Now is primetime in the lower Chesapeake and along the Virginia coast for sight-casting to bull red drum as they school up and begin to move out. Chuck a gaudy bucktail style jig tipped with a soft-plastic curlytail at ’em and hang on. In Virginia’s creeks, stripers are becoming more active, and you might hook into speckled trout or even a puppy drum. Captain Chris Newsome of Bay Fly Fishing has put his clients on all three species this week fishing his home waters around the Middle Peninsula. Same for Captain Kevin Josenhans across the bay on the Eastern Shore side.

In the shallower waters, I really like DOA, Zoom, and ZMan.

 Junior angler David Herbst won his division with a 3.40-pound flounder. (Photo courtesy of )
Junior angler David Herbst won his division with a 3.40-pound flounder. (Photo courtesy of )

 The remnants of Hurricane Michael and cold fronts have put an end to what has been stellar white marlin action. But the blue-water fun isn’t quite over. Captain Karl on the Hurricane loaded up on dolphin fish near the Rockpile the other day, and his party had a real treat when, as one of his anglers was reeling a bull mahi-mahi a huge mako tore across the wake to inhale it.

The angler fought it for a few minutes until the line parted. Karl said it was the largest mako he’d even seen, easily over 300 pounds. Deep dropping for tilefish and working reefs and wrecks for sea bass and bluefish are good bets. Go with a pro, save yourself time. 

Over the weekend, the Ocean City Marlin Club held its Inshore Classic with 30 boats and 95 anglers, of which nine were junior anglers. The event paid out over $9,200 in prize money. David Herbst won the junior angler division with a 3.40-pound flounder.