Wild Chesapeake: Out with the Fish, in with the Birds

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.

Last Friday, (from left) Kris Jones, Kevin Thomas, Derek Arnold, and Josh Sweat enjoyed a successful end to the 2018 striper season with Capt. Greg Shute, fishing out of Point Lookout. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Thomas) 

Let’s start with the feathers. Duck and goose seasons are back in, and the weekend’s never-ending downpour and fog made for tough conditions—some gunners struck out. The Susquehanna Flats are holding a variety of ducks, and layout boats and body-booters are having good sport on sea ducks and divers.

Maryland’s striper season sputtered to an end as poor weather and fewer rockfish in the final two weeks than in previous years. The Potomac River remains open for catching and keeping until the end of the year, as does Virginia’s Bay season. The ocean-side fishery out to the three-mile line is open year-round. That latter fishery has seen some true trophies caught, including 60-pounders that have hit the scales in tournaments. Drifting and slow trolling with eels has been effective, especially along the eastern side of the Bay from Cape Charles to Plantation Light. CBM and Wild Chesapeake strongly encourages releasing the big breeders. 

For light tackle fans, I suggest flocking to the diving birds often found down-tide of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel pilings and islands. Storms, Z-Mans and similar soft plastic baits will get you hooked up with a perfect schoolie-sized rockfish. If the tide is ripping, go with at least a two-ounce lead-head. A few gator-sized speckled trout in the 30-inch range were caught in Lynnhaven and Rudee inlets, but that bite has recently waned. Still, it was a good showing for the specks considering that so many fish were killed during last winter’s hard freeze.

Offshore, swordfish and some tunas have been decked, including a monstrous 980-pound, 117-inch bluefin tuna brought to the dock in Morehead City. Wreck fishing off the Delmarva Coast has been good, though the sea bass season closes on December 31. It’ll reopen February 1 and run through February 28, then again May 15 through December 31. Captain Drew Payne on The Big Worm, now running out of Virginia Beach, put his clients on jumbo bass, ling, pollack, and bluefish. Captain Monty Hawkins hosted anglers and a team of Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists who dissected all their tautog for aging analysis used by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Another trip produced sea bass limits and a 27-inch flounder, but Capt. Monty had to steam well offshore to find them.

Pond and tidal fishing remains good for chain pickerel, crappie and yellow perch. Spinners, tube-jigs, and natural bait all work. Starting this week, DNR will stock several popular streams with freshwater trout. Go enjoy. 

And now, your fisheries management news: The nation’s 11 million anglers have long known the positive contributions we make to help create jobs and fuel the economy. After many years of efforts led by a coalition of recreational fishing groups, the U.S. Senate agrees: Earlier this week federal lawmakers unanimously passed the Modern Fish Act, which is intended help improve fisheries data collection, promote angler access, and empower fishery managers to implement plans beneficial to sport fishing.