There are many effective ways of fishing for late season stripers on the Chesapeake Bay, but light tackle jigging is certainly one of the most fun. Jump aboard with FishTalk Angler in Chief Lenny Rudow, and watch this video for a quick look at some basic, beginner-level tackle and tips for late fall/early winter rockfish jigging.
Remember those basic tips:
- When you spot birds don't just start blindly casting, but watch your fishfinder and move around (slowly, at idle) until you see good marks on the fishfinder.
- Bait-balls should be more or less ignored.
- Try slowing down your presentation. Sometimes, once the water temperature falls below 50-degrees, it becomes more effective if you move that jg slowly (though we should note, not always - sometimes they'll still want faster motion).
- Use braid, so you can detect the light bites. Cold-water stripers sometimes take the lure rather gingerly.
- Skirted heads in the one-ounce range dressed with soft plastics are an excellent offering this time of year. Whites, pearls, and chartreuse are all good colors (white and pearl have been the killer the past few seasons) and some color contrast in the skirt is a good thing. Reds and pinks go well with white, for this purpose.
- Twenty to 30 inch fish are the best for eating, and releasing larger fish should be encouraged.
When it gets really cold out, it may be time to try hitting a warm water discharge. If that's in your plans, be sure to check out our article and video Fishing for Trophy Rockfish in Warm Water Discharges.
Just in case the wind's blowing - a rather common event as we move into the winter season - don't give up hope. Although the bulk of the fish and especially the very large ones will have moved off to deeper water, in many of the Chesapeake Tributaries there will still be some fish in the shallows. (Check out Fishing Light Tackle for Stripers in the Shallows Part I which is the how-to, and Part II which covers the where-to, to get the scoop on this style of fishing). Just how long is it really possible to catch rockfish in just a foot or two of water? We've snagged keepers from the shallows the last day of the season, which varies from year to year but is in late December. And on November 25th of this year, we caught three keepers in half an hour of casting the shorelines at dusk. So yes, it may be a bit chilly these days. Sure, you're tempted to winterize your boat and hang up the striper fishing gear. But we'd say don't do it - there's some excellent fishing still to come as those stripers fatten up for the winter.