By: Keith Lockwood
After a spurt of warm weather last week, cooler air temperatures have returned and water temperatures continue their decline. Fish are feeling the urge to pack on as much as they can to prepare for the winter months so it is an ideal time to get out and fish, whether freshwater or saltwater fish are your target.
At the very top of the bay there continues to be some striped bass action near the mouths of the Elk and Susquehanna Rivers by jigging over suspended fish. Many of the fish are sub-legal but there are enough legal-sized ones to make it worthwhile to jig with metal or soft plastic jigs. There is also some topwater action near shoreline structure and the deeper edges of the Susquehanna Flats for a better grade of striped bass. The Conowingo Dam has had some substantial water releases lately creating strong currents in the river and dropping water temperatures to the 60° mark. Farther south there are schools of striped bass to be found suspended along channel edges or up on the surface chasing bait. Light tackle jigging is usually a favorite way to fish and metal jigs in the 2-ounce size range tend to be just the ticket for action. Soft plastic jigs can be cast to surface fish but the best grade of striped bass often tends to come from the depths beneath the surface action. Trolling is another option with bucktails, spoons and swim shads behind inline weights and often can put one onto a better grade of fish.
Dropping water temperatures are pushing white perch into deeper waters this week and some of the better white perch fish will be found in 20' of water or more. Small jigs or flies above a sinker or heavier jigs can be used when perch can be spotted on a depth finder. In the very top of the bay and the region's tidal rivers yellow perch can also be found along with channel catfish. White perch are also starting to school up near the rock piles at the Bay Bridge.
In the middle bay region fishing for striped bass has picked up once again after last week's warm weather raised water temperatures and put a damper on fishing success. Water temperatures rose to about 70° last Thursday but have dropped back to 62° this week. This is the time of the year to be watching for birds and slicks; jigging is what fall striped bass fishing is all about on the Chesapeake. There have been a lot of sub-legal striped bass in the tidal rivers but often a better grade of fish can be found out towards the bay. The mouth of Eastern Bay near Poplar Island, Thomas Point, outside of the West River, Little Choptank and the False Channel at the mouth of the Choptank have been good places to check. A few sea trout have also been part of the mix when jigging lately. A good running tide is very important.
Trolling can be a good option along channel edges and anywhere slicks can be spotted. Bucktails dressed with twister tails, spoons and swim shads are good choices behind inline weights. Umbrella rigs are also productive but of course add to the weight of gear that must be reeled in with a fish. Greg French holds up a chunky striped bass he caught while trolling in the lower Choptank River near Tilghman Island.
photo by Dr. Sandy McClinton