Thanksgiving Weekend has usually represented the last and best fishing of the year in the Patuxent River and Middle Chesapeake Bay for striped bass. And although temperatures have been higher this year, the cold front that blew through last Saturday dropped temperatures to their normal fall levels.
Thanksgiving night, I took what may be my final night fishing trip of the year. The air was cold, the stars brilliant, and in an hour of quiet, contemplative fishing, I found a couple striped bass willing to play. The fish were not large, about 18″ each, but they fought hard, and were released to continue their fall migration.
The next day (Black Friday), my father, uncle, and I fished the Patuxent River and Middle Chesapeake Bay. The weather was perfect – overcast and extremely low winds. We were greeted with glass calm water in the Patuxent River as we set out, and rather than head directly out into the Bay, I decided to head up the Patuxent.
In years past, good fish could be found once water temperatures hit the low 50’s near the mouths of two large creeks on this river, usually under birds. We did find fish near the mouth of the first creek, under birds and in 50′ of water, but the size of the fish was lacking – most were 10″ to 14″. We fished larger flies and lures, but after 30 minutes of catching small fish, we set out into the bay.
We ran north towards the Little Choptank River, and found acres of fish feeding actively under birds. We stayed with these fish for the next 3 hours, following them as they moved with outgoing tide. Most fish were small, 10-16″, but we did drift through a few fish that were larger, and landed a couple around 20″. By the time we left, we had landed somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 fish.
Before we came back to the dock, we tried fishing a small creek of the Patuxent as the sun fell lower in the sky, and a chill finally gripped the air. The creek was quiet, only occasionally punctuated by the call of a loon. We did not find any striped bass there, perhaps because the creek was three degrees colder than the main stem of the river and bay.
If the weather holds, I may be able to get out one more time. One more cold front will likely signal the end of our fishing season in the middle bay.