School-sized stripers are now legal in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, and as you can see in our Middle Bay report, the bite is red-hot! Many anglers look forward to the size limit drop for a number of reasons: the fish are more plentiful and easier to catch; light-tackle fishing becomes much more effective; smaller striped bass are actually better eating than the big ones; and plenty of Chesapeake anglers would rather not kill a big cow breeder in the first place. Well, people, our time has finally come. Here's a quick sampling of fish that have been caught in the past two days, since the limit dropped:
As FishTalk readers know, we've put the current fishing reports, covering from northern Delaware clear down to Virginian waters, behind a very weak "wall," requiring you to create an account with an email before you can access them. We've done so to keep random Googlers out, and FishTalk readers in. While we won't do this often, today we're going to sketch out the state of the current fishery for schoolies right here and right now, considering how important the size limit drop is as a matter of news (and we know there's no other "news" that's worth paying attention to these days... right?)
In the northern waters of the Chesapeake there are good numbers of mid-sized fish in the Triple Buoys area and Love Point, with trollers doing best, along the contour drops from the mid-20's into the mid-30 foot range. At this point in time, down-sizing your lures is a good idea. Many of the fish being caught have six-inch bunker in their bellies, so this is a good size to mimic. At Podickory Point, meanwhile, chummers and jiggers are doing well. There are also still fish around the Bay Bridge pilings, though you can expect them to get pounded with the nice weather and the weekend coming up.
Chummers and trollers are having moderate success at or near Hackett's and Thomas points. Eastern Bay has plenty of fish up into the mid-30-inch range snapping but remember, THESE FISH ARE STILL OFF-LIMITS and must be released. The really hot-hot-hot bite is a bit further south, with relatively small but plentiful schools of stripers roaming the 25 to 30 foot contour along the western shore from Holland Point down to the Power Plant. (A couple weeks ago they were grouped into larger schools, but most seem to have broken up a bit, perhaps due to the large number of boats suddenly targeting them).
Most of these fish are in the 23" to 26" range but anglers putting in their time have been encountering a fish or three over 30 inches per trip. It seems that as you go father south the fish get bigger. Jigging and trolling have been the best methods for taking these fish, and anglers have noted that chartreuse and pink have been effective colors. Most of the fish are from mid-depth down to the bottom, though on rare occasions they come up top and start breaking. Most of these frenzied events have been very short, but do tip off anglers as to the general location of the fish. When the fish are down deep, working your lure at or near bottom has been the ticket. Many anglers have also noted that the fish are biting on the change of the tide, and during many other parts of the tidal cycle seem to have lock-jaw or short-strike the lures. There's also been a lot of boat traffic on some of these schools (we saw about two dozen boats working in a tight area off the Radar Towers on Tuesday) and this does seem to be having a negative impact on the fish's willingness to bite. If you can spot a school of fish on the meter away from the crowd, you're likely to enjoy a better bite.
The June edition of FishTalk will be hitting the streets next week, and in it you'll find an in-depth feature on jigging for late spring/early summer schoolie stripers written by Angler In Chief Lenny Rudow. If you want to try jigging for striped bass this season, be sure to check it out.