Last Saturday, I headed out with a friend to fish the Patuxent River one final time before pulling my boat for the year. We were fortunate to have low winds and calm waters, and we quickly found large schools of juvenile striped bass at the mouth of the river and out into the bay. Terns, gulls, loons, and pelicans were feeding actively over these fish, and we spent a couple hours jigging large plastics in and around the schools without much success. The fish were clearly small, and we only had a few 10″ fish eat our lures once we switched to smaller plastic jigs.
We headed a little further south, and found a large number of cormorants, pelicans, and a gannet swimming around on the surface of the water, the water covered in the sheen of fish oil. Excited, I cut the motor, and began casting and jigging, watching the finder. A few schools of bait showed, and then I saw them – large red marks on the screen at 15′-25′. We jigged like crazy, hoping one of these big fish would eat our 1 oz jigs, but it wasn’t our day.
After fishing this spot for a half hour (we were determined), and failing to see those big marks again, we headed back up river. We saw more scattered schools of fish along the way, from St. Leonard Creek up to Battle Creek, but again, only small fish were present.
Our last shot was to hit a honey hole in Battle Creek that I have had success fishing for years. This spot never lets me down, and sure enough, my friend managed one more striped bass from that spot.
After that last fish, we headed in to the dock, where I, my friend, and my father pulled the boat for the year. For me, this is always a bittersweet moment. You look back on the season, the amazing things you saw and did on the water, and truly wish it could continue. At the same time, winter gives (or makes you) think hard about the other things in your life – the things off the water that you ignored while the air was warm and fish were plentiful.
That said, I’m already thinking about next April…