Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | September 26, 2012
For dedicated Maryland surf casters, nothing is more anticipated than the brief autumn run of red drum-and perhaps no angler waits more eagerly than Allen Sklar of Ocean City.
Every day for the past three weeks, Sklar has been on the Assateague beach before sunrise to set up, cast and wait. He prefers spot, bunker, and kingfish for bait. The head of a fresh bluefish will also do the trick. He uses a 12-foot rod to cast a fish-finder rig with a 36-inch 100-pound test mono rub-leader connected to a thin wire Mustad 10/0 or a 9/0 Gamakatsu Big Eye circle hook with a seven- or eight-ounce sinker to heave the bait beyond the breakers where a big red might be cruising. He prefers braided running line as it provides a better feel for the personality and attitude of a hooked fish.
For close casting, Sklar picks a spot featuring deep water and a cut in a sandbar, and he makes sure to keep his bait fresh by checking often and replacing the bait whenever it appears tired, soggy, damaged or in anyway suspicious. The strategy evidently works and on Thursday morning brought three successive sandbar shark connections, countless bluefish, spot, pompano, and a huge stingray. T.J. Nelson stopped by on his way off the beach to see how Sklar was doing and left him a fresh kingfish he had caught. Sklar immediately cut it in half, threaded a chunk on his hook and sent it just past the first breakers. As the waves began to reach the high tide mark, the rod bent deeply, and Sklar knew he had a substantial fighter on the line. He could feel the tail thrashing as the fish tried to rub the hook out in the sand.
"The fish came in fairly quickly... maybe too quickly, it turned out," he said. "A big red drum can really bust you if they are too green." The fish bolted south when it sensed the shoreline. Sklar followed the fish down the beach until he could wade in and grab the leader. With his boots filling with water and sand, he was able to lift the fish and stand for a quick photo before removing the hook and letting it go to fight another day. Estimated weight-45 pounds!
"Red Drum fishing at Assateague Island is about as tough as surf fishing gets," Sklar says. "An angler may spend weeks trying to land one of these powerful fish. In 17 years of surf fishing I've only landed a couple dozen of these critters."
Allen Sklar with a 45-pound red drum on Assateague Island. Photo by Sklar and NPS Ranger Bryan Quello
Anglers looking to join the action can park in the day lot at the Assateague National Seashore ($15 for a seven-day pass, $30 for the annual pass), or along the numbered east-west streets near the Ocean City beach and hump your gear through the dunes to the rolling surf. Don't trample the sea grass. It stabilizes the beach where it survives. Fill a five-gallon bucket with everything you'll need for a few hours on the sand-water, snacks, bait, hooks, dehooker, sand spikes, pliers, spare tackle...
Be aware and considerate of the salt-stained anglers who stake out their spots in the morning mist. They have earned their places and can help you immensely in understanding the method, skill and culture of surf fishing. If you spy the silhouette of a floppy hat, boots, jeans and the determination of a classic fisherman on the sand, you are probably looking at Allen Sklar, T. J. Nelson or any of the guardians of the North Assateague Island surf. Watch and learn.
Ocean City flounder fishing remains steady for coastal anglers who work the sandy bottom of the OC Inlet and the Coastal Bays. The two hours on either side of high tide are best for reasons that no one but the flounder understands. Live bait is best, of course. But, some anglers are experimenting and succeeding with combinations of natural bait and Berkley Gulp plastics.
Ocean City's South Jetty is currently featuring sheepshead, an excellent item on anyone's menu.
Offshore, the white marlin bite continues. Dolphin too! The persistent high winds have been the limiting factor lately. When the wind allows, the bill-fishing remains hot over the Norfolk and Washington Canyons.
Moving west from the Atlantic beaches, it's time to ignore the lawn, throw the kids in the station wagon and go pan fishing. Cool nights and shorter days are beginning to produce water temperature inversions that will coax the fish out of the depths to the clear shallows where kids of all ages can while away Indian summer days casting and catching. In this gap between summer's grass mowing and the leaf fall, we owe it to ourselves and the next generation of anglers to go fish. Mud minnows fished live under a bobber is an exciting way to fool blue gills, catfish, yellow perch, crappies, maybe a largemouth bass and even a beautiful chain pickerel. Pack snacks and make a day of it.
Largemouth bass fishing in the tidal Potomac River is benefitting from some recent rain, which has added some color to the water and pushed the salt wedge a little downstream. Ken Penrod and his Life Outdoors Unlimited guides have found good fishing along the Fort McNair drop-off. They recommend Rapala Thugs, Mizmo tube lures and the Penrod Special spinner bait from the BigMouth Lure Company. The Blue Plains Plant and Fox Ferry Point are holding striped and largemouth bass. The Wilson Bridge Belle Haven Cove, Smoot Bay and Penrod Cove waters are providing satisfaction for anglers who are handy with Rapala DT crankbaits, tube lures and Case Magic Stiks.
The upper end of Mattwoman Creek has been fishing well in low water with spinner and buzz baits.
While bass anglers are out having pure fun, the DNR Tidal Bass Program has been on a full-court press to complete the fall largemouth bass survey. At the time of this writing, the biologists have measured, examined and weighed about 150 fish and can report that the bass are in good shape. The juveniles are measuring between four and five inches, an indication of a good 2012 year class. The team has tagged 15 blue catfish in a cooperative study with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. They are terminating any snakeheads that turn up in a cooperative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The survey has another five weeks to go and includes portions of the Potomac River, Choptank River, Patuxent River, Susquehanna Flats, Marshyhope Creek, Wicomico River, and Pocomoke River.
Avid bow-hunter and DNR Angler's Log contributor Dutch Baldwin in PG County has expanded his snakehead assault program to include blue catfish. A couple of years ago, Baldwin combined his passion for big game hunting and fishing with a nighttime snakehead bow fishing program based from a jon-boat equipped with flood lights. This program worked out so well that other hunters have taken his lead and are having fun harvesting protein and removing invasive species in Piscataway and Mattawoman creeks while the rest of the world watches TV or sleeps. Baldwin's latest rig is a 20- by eight-foot foot SeaArk equipped with six ultra-bright 150W sodium lights, a Honda generator, a bow-controlled trolling motor and a 90 hp four-stroke Yamaha outboard. The lights and trolling motor are controlled from the bow-mounted shooting deck, which can accommodate four "anglers". Baldwin uses a light compound bow rigged with a bow-fishing reel. No bait required.
"We cruise the marsh and grass edges looking for the distinctive shape of the fish," he says. "You can really tell the outline of the species and know exactly what you are aiming at." Baldwin says there are just too many small blue catfish to count in the creek. The giants (20-36 pounds) tend to lay still. "The meat is mild tasting and flaky. Good to eat no matter what size." he says. According to Baldwin, prime blue cat fishing time is right now and, really anytime of year.
Blue Cat Bow Hunter Dutch Baldwin
Deep Creek Lake temperatures have dropped into the low 70s, and the water skiers have put their boats and boards away for the year leaving the water open and calm for anglers. The early morning surface film is dimpled with the feeding of schools of small bluegills and perch. Aggressive black bass will be underneath, which calls for top-water fishing strategies. Ace Deep Creek guide Brent Nelson recommends the Rapala Skitter-Pop for exciting splashy visuals and success. He also likes prop baits such as the Nip-a-Diddy, Tiny Torpedo and the Woodchopper. And who wouldn't like those, if only for the excellent names? They sound like a cast of twisted Disney characters.
The well-appointed Deep Creek Lake angler should always have a Zara Spook in the bag for times when nothing else is working. Learn to walk-the-dog with these lures and good things will happen.
Tangier Sound continues to offer opportunities for a Crisfield Super Slam - rockfish, bluefish, speckled trout and redfish. Add a flounder and a croaker to the list to make a hero's memory. Light tackle guide Kevin Josenhans reports 100-fish days as the action heats up for the fall bonanza. The Stillwater Smack-it seems to be the go-to top-water lure for the late September specks and stripers.
On the Upper Chesapeake Bay, breaking rockfish continue to be the game. The blitz has been an Upper Bay phenomenon for the past six weeks, primarily featuring undersized yearling stripers in the expanse of water inside of Sharps Island Light over an area that old-timers call The Diamonds.
Shawn Kimbro and an Upper Bay rockfish. Photo by Joe Evans
Now, with water temperatures falling into the low 70s, the action is moving inshore, and big fish have begun to arrive in shallow waters in search big-bites. Schools of large menhaden are churning the waters of Eastern Bay and the Choptank River, but the small stripers seem to be ignoring this smorgasbord in favor of thick schools of tiny bay anchovies in the mouths of the tributaries (Severn, Magothy, Chester, South). The big fish appear to be content to ambush perch and surface plugs along the rocks, stumps and docks of the Miles River, Wye, Whitehall Bay...
Carla's Bloody Point striper. Photo by Joe Evans
Severn River kayak anglers are slipping away to find excellent white perch and striper fishing in the mornings and evenings over the oyster bars, along the marshy shorelines, and in the hidden saltwater ponds. Severn River yak-angler John Veil, who won the Tracker Boat in this year's Maryland Fishing Challenge, has been having excellent luck with spinner baits catching a mix of stripers and perch using the ultralight, slow-troll method. He simply drags three lines as he eases his kayak along the shore and waits for the strike. Veil's winning 2012 white perch was a Severn River 13.5 incher!
The Jonas Green Park at the base of the Naval Academy Bridge is the best place to launch your paddling expedition-good, free parking and a nice soft ramp.
Severn River September rockfish. Photo by Joe Evans
Eastern Shore kayak professional, Chris Dollar reports excellent white perch fishing along the Tilghman Island shoreline from Tilghman Point to Claiborne. Cabin Creek on the southeast side of Kent Narrows is also a good bet for paddlers who go early and know to use a slow retrieve along the marshy shore. Dollar likes the Woody lure from Maryland Tackle, a locally-made spinner/bucktail lure that really turns the white perch into gangsters.
Scotty Taylor of Annapolis reports that there are obviously hundreds of feeding brown trout in the Gunpowder River. But they are too hard to catch.
Don't let that stop you.
It's time to fish in Maryland.