December 19, 2016 | The striped bass season closes on the 20th of December in Maryland waters.
The fall rockfish action this year ends similar to the last several years with lots of activity of sleek, fat domestic fish in the 24 to 32 inches range. The ocean run of stripers continues to stay mostly in the Atlantic off the coast from New Jersey to Ocean City, Maryland. We blamed the lack of fall fish in the Bay last year on the consistently warm weather when 70-degree days lasted through December. The weather was closer to normal this fall, but the fish continued to stay off the coast where huge schools of menhaden, stretching for tens of miles out in front of Delaware Bay, kept the migration stock still.
The Potomac and Virginia striped bass season doesn't end until December 31. Any day that the weather allows a boat to get out safely should make for a productive trip. Trolling is the key now for consistent catches.
The local fish were consistently good with huge schools of feeding fish in the lower Potomac and off Point Lookout and Point No Point. These stripers were all mixed up size-wise with tiny 12-inch breaking on top and big fish under on them on the bottom.
Spring rock fishing was spectacular in 2016. Trollers started loading their boats with 25 to 50 pound stripers by the first of May and it lasted well into June.
The surprises of the year came with cobia (spending the summer on the Middle Grounds) and big bull redfish in the 35 to 55-pound range (chasing bait fish in the same area).
The cobia and big drum gave us two seasons in a row with a new fishery to pursue. The red drum is all catch and release as the slot limit is 18 to 28 inches, and, as usual, most of the reds we catch are either too big or too small, but they are a great fish to target for sport.
The croaker were small this year and came up from the ocean in April and stayed until September. There were plenty of undersized croaker, and these fish will grow up and return in the spring.
We were surprised by our spot migration that simply did not develop. We had nearly 30 days of rain in May that freshened up our waters and kept them cool. Spot like hot, salty water, and while they avoided the Bay, we had a good catch or two here and there but no consistency. The full name of these fish is Norfolk Spot, and the Hampton Roads area of the Bay near Norfolk, VA (where the name originates) saw very few spot this year. The best spot location was in the Tangier Sound on the eastern side of the Bay. Watermen there did very well selling their catch for a dollar each to charter captains who used them live-lining for rockfish up the Bay from Deale to Baltimore Harbor where the rockfish concentrated.
We had another great year for white perch. The creeks and rivers were loaded with perch for fishermen who pursued them with bait (bloodworms, peeler crab) in the deep, and with tiny spinner baits (Beetle Spins) in the shallows.
Catfish continue to grow in size and number in the upper regions of both the Potomac and Patuxent. Catches of 20 or more in a couple of hours are common. The catfish range from 3 to 12 pounds, and the big boys in the 25 to 40-pound size are not uncommon.
This is my last report or 2016 and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I look forward to the new fishing in 2017 and will return when spring conquers winter and yellow perch spawn in late February or early March.
Please enjoy a photo recap of the 2016 fishing season!