August 21, 2018 - Red Fish Blitz in the Lower Bay
The past several weeks have found big red drum (reds, redfish, channel bass) all over the bay chasing bait fish and Spanish mackerel.
The past several weeks have found big red drum (reds, redfish, channel bass) all over the bay chasing bait fish and Spanish mackerel. These fish have been caught randomly by trollers using big spoons or jigs and bucktails dressed with shad bodies. The best of this fishing is to find the fish frothing the water in a big break with Spanish mackerel leaping out of the water trying to escape from the redfish. At that point the fish are bunched up by the hundreds in a concentrated area about the size of a big swimming pool. Any lure tossed into the water will be instantly hit by a redfish in the 35 to 50-pound range.
Such an event took place last Thursday about three miles below the Target ship on the South West Middle Grounds in about 25 feet of water. The fish erupted at the very end of the outgoing tide about 1PM and stayed active for a little over an hour. I had been invited on Tom Tippet's boat the "Box Alarm" out of the Patuxent and we spent most of the morning trolling around looking for the fish from about buoy 72 slowly working our way south. There were a dozen or so other boats doing the same including Capt. Kyle Johnson of Rock Solid Charters. There were occasional hookups of a redfish or two here and there, but no big concentrations were located.
We eventually anchored and set up a chum line on the Middle Grounds and got an undersized cobia (very nice) and a big red about 25 pounds, as well as several cow-nosed rays. All the reds we were looking for would be oversize as we are allowed only one a day in a slot limit of 18 to 27 inches. All the fish are carefully handled and released alive and kicking.
About 1 PM we were getting ready to quit chumming as the action had slowed and to go red drum hunting again when they suddenly erupted about a quarter mile away. The anchor had to be retrieved, the rods switched from chumming rigs to lures to throw, and the chumming gear put away. A mad scramble was still underway to accomplish these tasks when Capt. Tom eased the boat up next to the thrashing fish and we threw five lures into the frothy water and immediately had five fish on. All of these fish were landed except mine which I had on my personal rod which was too light for the job and the fish broke off as it was headed for the net. That outfit was put away and a stouter rod and reel was quickly substituted. While pictures of the four fish were being taken and the fish released, I called Capt, Kyle and told him to come on down. We were the only boat in the break and the fleet had all gone north out of sight.
The fish were still up and the boat was skillfully maneuvered to cast to them. For the next hour we were constantly in breaking fish. Capt. Kyle came in about ten minutes after we called and carefully edged his boat up the fish and he and his other two mates hooked up on their first casts. They ended up landing and releasing ten fish.
Gradually other boats showed up. The fish became more skittish in all that prop noise, and some boats drove into the middle of the school at full tilt to make a cast scattering the fish. We headed home about 2:30 with the fish still active but scattered around and harder to find. All told we calculated we had landed 30 fish in the 35 to 50-pound range. Others were hooked and lost. There were some lures with hooks broken or straightened. A big heavy duty jig with a 6/0 or 8/0 hook is what I would recommend. It was a day we will never forget.
Last year the big reds were here through October. They ranged as far north as buoy 76 out of the mouth of the Patuxent and were situated just outside the Targets in Cedar Point Hollow for a couple of weeks feeding on tiny gray trout (weakfish) that schooled up there. One troller targeting Spanish mackerel at the three-legged marker in the Patuxent mouth landed a couple and caught a redfish about 30 pounds on the same spoon last Wednesday. Anywhere there are mackerel there could be redfish.
Bottom fishing has improved all over with massive amounts of spot and white perch available most everywhere.
Spanish mackerel are in the ship's channel along with some snapper blues.
Rockfish are up the rivers in the shallows ready to hit cast or trolled lures most every evening and sunrise.