Wild Chesapeake: Stripers, Whitetails, Honkers & Bronzebacks

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.

Few sights are prettier that the silver-green flanks of a rockfish breaking the surface on a clear and crisp October morning. Chasing breaking schools of feeding stripers is a rite of fall in Chesapeake Country, but other outdoor pursuits are also in gear.

Seven-year old Jackson Lewatowski shows off a sweet bronze-back that hit his tube jig while fishing with his dad, Jeff. They did a float trip with Grateful Guides on the Susquehanna River this week. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Lewatowski)

The first split of Maryland’s duck season closed last week and reopens November 10. Meanwhile, we are seeing wild Canada geese, not the fat-and-happy resident golf-course variety, move in. The migratory goose season opens November 17 and closes the day after Thanksgiving. Whitetail deer are on the move with archers and devotees of the smoke-pole in close pursuit. 

You have a better chance of being bitten by an alligator in Kent Narrows than you do of winning the lottery, but the odds of catching a quality rockfish should increase significantly in coming days as water temps drop toward the 60-degree mark. In my neck of the Bay from Poplar Island to the Bay Bridges, I’ve encountered rockfish harassing silversides and anchovies, but not feeding on the bigger bunker like they’ve done in years past. Perhaps I’m not in the right spots. I’ve heard reports of impressive bunker schools in Virginia rivers, so that’s encouraging.

Expect to find breaking stripers up and down the Bay—good sport on light tackle. You’ll have to move around a bit if you’re looking for a of keeper fish for dinner. Eastern Bay is holding rockfish at the usual haunts off of Wades Point and the mouths of the Wye and Miles rivers. The action in waters from Chesapeake Beach to Parkers Creek was hot earlier this week, and anglers caught their limits by trolling swim baits or jigging soft plastic lures. Solomons Island and Tangier Sound fishing is also picking up.

According to Captain Victor on the Ocean Princess, the action off of Ocean City is mostly sea bass with a few flounder, triggerfish and bluefish in the mix. That is, if you can make it out of the inlet due to the high winds and waves. Offshore of Virginia, swordfish are being caught on the deep-drop in the Norfolk canyon, reports Ric Burnley. Inshore, go after speckled trout in the back waters and toss swim baits like Z-Man’s Diesel minnows. 

Now is the time to catch a big red drum from the pier, surf or around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel islands using spot and mullet heads and your fish finder rigs. The red drum bite off of Maryland’s stretch of Assateague Island was on fire for several days, but most of those folks are understandably tight-lipped about exactly when and where those big fish swim into the surf. All along the Delmarva peninsula down to the Outer Banks, it’s game-on for surf fishing.

This is a good time to catch smallmouth bass on rivers like the Susquehanna. That’s where seven-year old Jackson Lewatowski (age 7) caught his beautiful bronzeback, which hit a tube jig while he was fishing with his father, Jeff, on a guided trip with Grateful Guides.

—Captain Chris Dollar