Wild Chesapeake: Weather Hampers Scouting for Trophy Rockfish

You may know Captain Chris Dollar from his column in Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Wild Chesapeake. Now, the expert angler and outdoorsman brings his most up-to-date insight to the Bay Bulletin. Check in weekly to see where the fish are biting, and which gear is working right now.

Captain John Whitman of the charter boat Patent Pending snapped a photo of this 45-inch striper he caught last week. Photo: Captain John Whitman

Anglers gearing up for Saturday’s opening of Maryland’s spring trophy rockfish season have had to put scouting trips on hold since rain, strong winds and colder than usual temps washed out some early spring days. So, the rockfish bite has been very slow for charter captains and anglers on scouting trips. The captains and anglers I talked with from Tangier Sound to the South River say it’s been a struggle. More than likely, the rockfish are in their spawning rivers or at the top of the Bay. Striper spawning usually takes place when water temps hit the high 50s, with 64.5 Fahrenheit being the optimal temperature. My latest check of the Thomas Point water temperature registered just under 50 degrees. 

Remember how I told you last week that the Susquehanna Flats fishing had caught fire? Well, that’s cooled off considerably as result of Sunday’s storm and the two-day weather hangover that followed. Once we see a return of better weather, it’s possible we might get at least one more good pulse of rock on the Flats. Or it could be over. 

The best fishing action I’ve heard about is upstream on white perch and shad, or in impoundments and lakes for largemouth bass and chain pickerel. A DNR biologist friend reports they’re seeing enough hickory shad in the Choptank River to say that the population can be considered restored. Try above and below Red Bridges.

A few years back I got into hickories way up stream on the Choptank. Over the past several years, the Gunpowder has been one of my annual stops on my hickory shad trail. But I hear the shad aren’t there yet. Reports are a little better at Fletcher’s Landing on the Potomac, and just yesterday I heard the first wave of hickory shad have entered Deer Creek or the Octoraro off the Susquehanna. Cast small shad darts or spoons in tandem, or a shad dart/fly combo.

To anglers venturing out in the annual Boatyard Bar & Grill tourney, be safe, good luck and have a great day. 

-Capt. Chris D. Dollar