Wild Chesapeake: High Winds & Blowout Tides

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.

Most outdoorsy folks are optimists. How else can you explain our penchant for trucking outside in less than desirable conditions with the hope of catching a few fish? So when the weather broke beautiful this past Sunday you can bet people took advantage, especially since Monday and much of Tuesday, at least where I am, were pretty much unfishable. Your guess is as good as mine on what effect this recent deluge might have on upper Bay fishing. And don’t get me started on these blowout tides.

Brothers Quin (foreground) and Travis Carroll of Virginia Beach wade the banks of the Lynnhaven River, where they caught dozens of spotted sea trout including a limit for them and their dad, Bob Carroll. (Photo courtesy of Robert Carroll a.k.a Capt. Octopus)

The speckled sea trout run is on in lower Virginia. A good friend of mine, Bob “Captain Octopus” Carroll, said his sons Travis and Quinn easily caught more than 50 specks, their three-man limit, casting in the shallows of the Lynnhaven River. The hot lick was a white, four-inch Gotcha soft-plastic swim bait with a white jighead. He says there are so many fish that you can cast and catch with just about anything. Try Berkley’s Gulp! in pink. He said, “The river seemed more like a freshwater trout stream as the tide really dropped, and we could wade anywhere to get to the deeper runs. Standing waves made it look like riffles.” 

Anglers fishing the Rappahannock, James, Elizabeth, and Potomac rivers for stripers are enjoying most of the success, but you can also catch by casting into the light lines under bridges such as Great Neck, Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and Hampton Roads or private docks in Virginia. The Tangier Sound shallows on the Bay side and Eastern Shore sides are good for rockfish. Cast jerk-baits or jigs along shorelines in front of places like Janes Island or at the mouths of rivers like the Big Annemessex. That’s what Jim Bright and his kids did Monday, tossing four-inch swim shads in chartreuse. They mostly hooked stripers 16 to 18.5 inches, but did land some keepers (20-inch plus) with the best measuring 25 inches. The water temps were in the upper 50s, and most of the rock were holding just off the shoreline rather than tight against it.

Middle and lower Bay fishermen are trolling umbrellas and tandem parachutes with six-inch shad and twister tail teasers with tandem parachutes being more effective in recent days. They’re catching rock in the mid 20-inch to 30-inch range. Try inside the Choptank River, from Cook’s Point past James Island. Or further south from Buoy 76 past the HI Buoy, or off of Smith Island. The Chesapeake Beach area and The Hill are worth a look. I’ve heard those who’ve kept spot in pens or can still buy them are crushing rockfish in the Solomons/Hoopers Island complex.

Weather has hampered the coastal sea bass and flounder action, but when it moderates, expect to catch some fish. How do I know? I got an invite for today but of course I have to work. They’ll crush them for sure. Near ocean structure is best this time of year. Tautog fishing has been slow but should pick up as water temps fall.

On Wednesday, November 14th, the Maryland Sportsman’s Foundation will host a striper forum to discuss how best to manage the recreational striper fishery among Maryland’s sport anglers and charter boat operators. The event runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Calvary United Methodist Church, 301 Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis.

Congrats to those who helped raise more than $500,000 during the Fish for A Cure tournament last Saturday out of Annapolis. Bay Bulletin’s Cheryl Costello was there; click here to watch her report.