About the Fish
We have caught at least 21 different species in the past. They include: rockfish (striped bass), bluefish, croaker, spot, Spanish mackerel, sea trout (weakfish), flounder, black drum, red drum, speckled trout, black sea bass, skate (cow-nosed rays), toadfish, spiny dogfish, stargazers, jack crevalle, grunt, sea robin, white perch, King William perch and whiting.
As of now we are principally catching rockfish, croaker, bluefish, spot and Spanish mackerel.
ROCKFISH: We catch rockfish all year long and they are kings of the Bay. Excellent table fare, they range in size from 18″, the minimum size in the Bay, to 50 pounds and up. Size depends much on when you fish. The “migratory” fish spawn and leave the Bay in late May. They are the big ones. Fish in April and May and expect to catch fish in the 28-40 inch (8-20 pounds) range, with many fish topping the 40 inch mark. Preferring cooler water (45-56 degrees), those fish leave the Bay, and travel north. They go as far as Nova Scotia. The “gales of November,” to quote the Gordon Lightfoot song, bring the big guys back to the Bay. From mid-November through the close of the Maryland season in mid-December, expect to catch these same big fish. During warmer winters, many rockfish will remain in the Bay and in the ocean near the mouth of the Bay where we target them from Virginia Beach from mid-December through mid-March. During very cold winters the rockfish head out to sea and further south, out of our range. Regardless of the severity of the winter, however, in mid-March nature once again calls them to the shallows in the Bay tributaries to spawn and the cycle then repeats itself.
During summer months we target the “resident” stock of rockfish. These fish range in size from babies to 20 pounds or so with a few bigger exceptions. Most of the fish we catch are in the 18-24 inch range, or 2-5 pounds. These are the locals and they’re around most of the time and are usually within range of Solomons. We catch these guys live-baiting, trolling and jigging. Trolling is usually the most effective method for catching the migratory fish.
CROAKER: These feisty guys arrive in the Bay in April. They are also a fine-eating fish. They average 10-18 inches and we’ve caught them as big as 22 inches. Despite their diminutive size, these guys fight like the devil! Scientists are still unsure of their spawning habits. Like many fish, their numbers have varied greatly over the years, but for about 15 years now they have been strong. In April, the croaker stay in the shallow, warmer water. In early to mid-May they head out to deeper water and settle into their summer patterns. They are primarily nocturnal feeders so we do a lot of night fishing when targeting croaker. They hang around until the end of August and then move out and head south.
BLUEFISH: Their reputation precedes them. Big-time fighters with a nasty set of choppers, these fish show up in June and hang around until Halloween. During the years of the rockfish decline, bluefish ruled the Bay. 10 to 15 pound blues used to show up in early May. Now, they are underlings to the rock. We went a long time without seeing blues of any size, but they have been getting bigger and bigger over the past several years. In late summer we see a lot of fish in the 5-8 pound class. Fishing for them is excellent in late summer, particularly in late afternoon and evening. They can be caught trolling, but live spot drive them nuts. Get one in front of a hungry 7-pound blue and you’d better be hanging on to your rod tight!
The seatrout have all but disappeared for now. Scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies claim seatrout numbers have fluctuated greatly over the years, so hopefully we’ll see a recovery in that species as well.
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