Wild Chesapeake: Hardcore Hunters & Anglers Rewarded in Winter Weather

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.

The snowstorm and plummeting temperatures had the birds on the move in recent days. I saw more puddle ducks up my creek than I have all year. I’m guessing that’s partially due to impoundments freezing over. So, that’s fun. More Canada geese also took to the water since the fields were snowed over, and the diver action (canvasbacks, scaup, and redheads) continues to please gunners setting up in the bigger water from the Susquehanna Flats and Chester River down to Tangier and Pocomoke sounds.

Before the snowstorm, Eddie Haile took advantage of a ‘bluebird’ day to catch this fine largemouth bass casting plugs in an Eastern Shore pond. (Courtesy photo)

The most dedicated Bay striper anglers are still fishing (catch and release) even though we are in the so-called off-season. When the Chesapeake wind and waves laid down last week, a smattering of anglers took advantage of the opportunity, mostly by jigging soft plastics baits such as Bass Kandy Delights (BKD), Bust ‘Em, and Z-Man lures. Some caught and released smaller resident fish at the mouth of the Severn River. Others found a mix of large and small rockfish under working birds around Point Lookout. Binoculars and radar can help you spot large sea birds and perhaps large stripers in the open Bay, but this is big water, so expect to run around a lot to find the action. Frigid temperatures make it essential that your craft is seaworthy and that you file a float-plan. When you find fish, try a slow and steady retrieve versus a snap-retrieve  and use 7- to 10-inch baits and 1.5-ounce and heavier jig-heads to get the lures down deep. I’ll wager that this cold snap will slow the fishing action somewhat.

Having done the winter striper fishing thing for years, I now spend my cold-weather free time on creeks, ponds, reservoirs and lakes when not I’m not waterfowl hunting. Eastern Shore backwaters are holding fat black crappie, yellow perch, pickerel and the occasional largemouth bass.

There aren’t very many party-boat captains and sport fishermen running ocean trips right now, but that will change somewhat when the sea bass season opens February 1. Some Rudee Inlet boats have done fairly well on tautog and other reef/wreck species. Up the coast in Ocean City, Maryland,  Capt. Monty Hawkins on the Morning Star  reported a decent “tog” bite before the storm blew in.

The 2019 boat show seasons are off and running beginning with the 2019 Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show, which runs January 24-27 at the Baltimore Convention Center. “Go Fishing Friday,” sponsored in-part by Chesapeake Bay Magazine, happens January 25 with a bunch of prizes, a virtual fishing simulator, a virtual fish-fighting tournament and informative seminars including two by yours truly at 1:30 and 5:30 covering fishing strategies for rockfish, red drum, cobia and speckled trout. Noted author Shawn Kimbro will be there at 6:30 and throughout the weekend to walk you through his proven Chesapeake light-tackle and panfish fishing techniques. Readers can score 20-percent ticket discounts online courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Magazine by using the code CBM. I Hope to see y’all there.