The fall season is of course noted for the spectacular splashes of color; whether they are the golden aspens of the Rockies or sugar maples in the Adirondacks, New England or western Maryland. Many outdoorsmen who travel to these places to hunt and fish often come upon one of the grandest creations of fall color one could ever imagine.
Fishermen looking for some action with striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay have plenty to keep them busy as schools of hungry striped bass are roaming the tidal rivers and the bay. The striped bass are on a feeding binge to fatten up for the winter months on schools bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden that are moving out of the tidal rivers and headed south. Fishermen have been enjoying some fantastic light tackle jigging action on breaking fish and those found holding deep. Many fishermen are having equal success by trolling and chumming and the weather holds the key this time of the year. Flexible schedules and being able to slip out for a couple of hours after work can pay big dividends for fishermen.
White perch are schooling up in the deep waters of the bay and lower regions of the tidal rivers over structure such as oyster reefs. Recreational crabbers are enjoying the last of this season's crabbing and perhaps the best crabs of the season.
Freshwater fishermen are finding cooler water temperatures have caused many species such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and walleye to become very active and to feed aggressively. Trout fishermen in all regions of the state are enjoying the fruits of a generous fall trout stocking program.
Fishermen in the Ocean City area have been dealing with rough sea conditions lately but some fishing; such as tautog fishing at the Ocean City Inlet has been very good. Striped bass and large bluefish are also being caught at the inlet and from the surf. In between the rough days there have been a few calm ones and boats have been venturing out to the wreck sites for tautog and a few have been doing deep drop trips to the canyon regions.
Chesapeake Bay Report
This is a great time of the year for fishermen looking for some light tackle action with striped bass close to port. Good striped bass fishing extends throughout the entire middle bay region this week with some of the best fishing occurring in the tidal rivers. Fishermen are finding striped bass by keeping a lookout for diving sea gulls or by looking for slicks, resting birds and marking fish on their depth finders. Often tidal currents have a lot to do with when and where the action is occurring and sometimes the fish are spread out over a wide area and picking and other times pushing bait to the surface and charging through the bait schools. The weather always plays a big part in the fishing scene this time of the year and recent strong winds and rain did not make fishing very pleasant over the weekend. This is the time of the year when those with flexible schedules get to enjoy some of the finest fishing to be found on a quiet weekday afternoon or for a few hours after work. David Yost (http://www.striperdave.com) got just such a last minute phone call from his friend Mike Schenk and they headed out at 4:30 and found good fishing in the South River as the sun began to set.
The Choptank River has been particularly hot since last weekís northeaster and at times the fish have really been packed in tight. The word certainly got out locally last week and everyone has been enjoying good light tackle jigging action into this week. The fish seem to be more spread out this week and at times marked fish refuse to bite but anglers report that can change in a heartbeat. Metal jigs around 2-ounces have been one of the more popular lures, although many still like bucktails of soft plastic jigs such as BKDís or various other types of soft plastic jigs and swim shads. Braided lines on a conventional bait caster or spinning outfit with a top shot of fluorocarbon or monofilament offer the most sensitive connection to the fish below while jigging close to the bottom.
Often when the action seems to have subsided and boats are on the prowl for the next blow up of diving birds and breaking fish; fishermen who canít stand the inaction will slow troll a small crankbait behind the boat off their spinning or conventional setup such as a diving Rapala or Rat-L-Trap and often enough come up with a fish or two. Others have been going straight to trolling along traditional locations such as channel edges and doing quite well.
White perch have been schooling up on many of the deep water shoals and oyster bars in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers. Jigging metal with a dropper fly has been a popular way to catch them. A bottom rig baited with bloodworms or grass shrimp will certainly do the trick also. Recreational crabbers are enjoying some of the best crabs to be caught all season; they are large and heavy. Most crabbers are reporting coming up short of a full bushel per outing but everyone has been happy to just be able to catch one more batch of these heavy crabs before the season is over for good.
Recent rains and windy conditions have not been kind to fishermen but there are always those days in between and of course usually on weekdays when all the magic of fall comes into place. The water temperature in the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam is now down into the mid-50 degree range and fishermen should start to see the walleye fishery there begin to develop. Casting small diving crankbaits or jigs with twister tails has always been a popular way to catch them. Smallmouth bass are already very active as are largemouth bass and crawfish is the number one item on the dinner menu; so any diving crankbait or jig that resembles a crawfish will be a good choice.
The many lakes and reservoirs of the central and southern regions are beginning to see grass beds retreat and when that begins to occur crawfish will be migrating to deeper cover to find a place to spend the winter. This annual migration does not go unnoticed by smallmouth and largemouth bass; crawfish are one of their favorite foods so they will be feeding near the deeper drop-offs or around the edges of declining grass. Jig and crankbait crawfish imitations will be one of the best options for lures for the next several weeks. As grass beds and other types of vegetative cover begin to diminish small baitfish such as juvenile sunfish will also find it harder to hide from predators. In the reservoirs of the central region where gizzard shad are present the juveniles will be a top food item for largemouth bass, pike and chain pickerel. Craig Walrath was fishing in Rocky Gorge Reservoir and sent in this picture and a short report. I caught all my fish on Spinner Baits in shallow water, shoreline pattern. They seem to be following shad schools into the shallows as the water temperature drops to the mid-50's and the thermocline vanishes as the lake "turns over".
Fishing in the tidal portion of the Potomac River for largemouth bass has seen an upturn as cooler water temperatures are causing largemouth bass to increase their feeding activity. Thick grass beds of milfoil are receding so bass are on the prowl for small baitfish and crawfish looking for new cover. Isolated clumps of grass, sunken wood and rocky edges are always good places to cast spinnerbaits, shallow running jerkbaits and shallow running crankbaits.
A number of put and take trout waters within the two regions have recently been stocked with trout; so be sure to check out the fall trout stocking schedule to see which waters near you have been stocked. The trout stocking website can be found at the following link. www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/stocking/springtroutstock.html