The weather was perfect as I left Solomons Saturday morning to head out into the Chesapeake Bay. I was joined by my friends, a pilot from key west and talented spear-fisherman, and another friend who is an expert spin fisherman. My pilot friend had dropped in as a last minute visit, had only a t-shirt and pair of breathable fishing pants, and was convinced that would be fine for the day. I made him wear a few layers of fleece, sweat pants, an insulated jacket, and a knit hat, all of which he was extremely happy to have in the 45 degree morning (though he still rocked a pair of flip flops for the day). Maryland is not South Florida.
As has been the case for the last month and a half, schools of striped bass were scattered in 30′ of water at the mouth of the Patuxent. These were marked by some bird activity and oil slicks. The fish were not feeding aggressively on the surface, but metal jigs and clouser minnows fished on sinking lines helped us put a number of fish in the boat. Fish were small, up to a maximum of ~14″.
We left these fish to run North, looking for bigger fish as the sun rose. We found a large mass of fish near the edge of the main channel near the Choptank River. As before, the fish were not actively feeding on the surface, but the 100+ gulls sitting on the water in the area, and the presence of a large, long slick indicated fish. We jigged plastics and metal lures here, and striped bass were from top to bottom in 40′ of water. We eventually lost the school, and headed in to the shallows as the tide rose.
The sky was bright and clear but we still found enormous numbers of small striped bass in these shallows, orienting toward points of land with strong current. For about 45 minutes, it was a fish every cast. We also found a few larger fish (~18″), but they were away from the points, instead orienting toward downed timber and sod banks where the current was less pronounced. I was able to hook a couple on my 5wt, landing one nice bass.
From there, with the tide high, we headed back to Solomons, and again found scattered fish at the mouth of the river. We caught small striped bass again, but soon found ourselves in a large school of seatrout (weakfish) down current from the bass. We ended up catching ten fish to 14″ on jigs and flies. Seatrout do not compete directly with striped bass, instead hanging back from the surface blitz to eat the wounded and dead baitfish that sink down to the bottom.
Despite seeing no big (or keeper-sized) striped bass, we ended up with a catch total in the 90’s. We kept one seatrout that had been injured, which I ate for dinner, marinating the fillets during the ride back to DC.