Just south of Annapolis, MD, the South River can be a confounding place to fish whether your'e hoping to slam the stripers, whack the white perch, or set your sights on any of the many other species you might encounter here. At the height of the season there’s so much weekend boat traffic, it’s rough even when the wind is dead calm. One year the South is chock-full of fish, and the next it’s as barren as the Dead Sea. This week the water looks gorgeous, and the next an algae bloom reduces visibility to nada. Of course, much of this is true of most of the middle and upper Western Shore rivers. And some seasons, the South is utterly on fire. When the reports start talking about this river, be sure to check out these top seven hotspots.
- The Mollie Spot - This spot is so named because when my daughter Mollie was three years old, we were cruising along and she said, “daddy let’s fish right here.” Purely to humor her I pulled back the throttle, dropped a resin jig over the side, and… proceeded to catch one weakfish after the next. Mollie is now 25 and I haven’t seen a good weakfish bite in the South in decades, but this spot will still produce rockfish on jigs and perch on Perch Pounders if you slide up to the point here and cast to the riprap along the southeast side, and up to the pier. The pier itself (as well as the next two piers heading up the creek) often holds fish but be careful when casting near the broken pilings on the south side because there used to be a boathouse here. It collapsed and created lots of structure — but also lots of snags.
- The Duck Blinds - This stretch of shoreline has three duck blinds in various states of disrepair (it looks like the one farthest downriver is still in use). They don’t tend to hold a ton of rockfish but sometimes have a few on them and are a bigger draw for perch, so they’re worth checking as you move upriver or downriver.
- Hill Point - From the cement wall at the end of the point to the mouth of Lake Hillsmere is one of my favorite stretches for river fishing (and my good friend Brian’s, too, who will surely give me grief for even mentioning it!) It runs hot and cold but I check it throughout the year and it sometimes saves the day when it’s too windy to fish the open Bay. Rock tend to congregate along the piers and at the point itself, and perch can be found all through this zone. Interestingly, there always seems to be one or two hot piers in this stretch but which one(s) it is during any given season changes through the years. So hit these fast and stay on the move until you get some bites, then work the spot over before moving on.
Turkey Point - From the first pier to the last one, this stretch is exactly like Hill Point: hot or cold, with standout piers that rotate through the years for rock and/or perch. That said, the very last pier and the pilings extending out into the river are unquestionably the most reliable over time.
- The Channel - The channel is a good area to work when wind keeps you off the Bay. Try trolling one-ounce Rat-L-Traps, feather jigs or bucktails, and paddletails along the edges and drop-offs for rockfish. Note that some fall seasons (maybe one in three on average) in October or November peanut bunker stage in the river before moving out into the Bay, and this area can fill up with 20-something-inch rock. You can catch them trolling, and just before sunset they often churn the water.
- The Thomas Point Rocks - It may officially be outside of the river, but this is probably the most reliable spot anywhere in this zone and it stays calm on a west wind. We’ve examined it in detail in the past so if you missed it, check out Thomas Point Rocks.
- The South-West Contour - From the South clear down to the West River a 12- to 15-foot drop-off runs off Mayo and Beverly/Triton beaches, and this is another area where rockfish will often move in during the fall to hunt peanut bunker. They could pop up anywhere clear out to open water and this is an area where you’ll want to scan with binoculars for bird play. Bonus fish: This summer, there was a swarm of cutlassfish living in this zone — an oddity for sure, but it made for an interesting bite!
Remember, this river runs hot and cold and can be downright frustrating sometimes. But, it can also be utterly fantastic. Hmmm… sounds a little bit like fishing just about anywhere... right?