October is usually the month when peanut bunker migrate out of the rivers, and rockfish move into tributary mouths to ambush them. It’s also a time of year when blustery winds can keep you off the open Bay, especially if your boat is on the small side. Light tackle trolling can be incredibly effective in this scenario — follow these five simple steps to get in on the trib-trolling action.

caught a rockfish trolling
Lures that look like peanut bunker are killer, when trolling the tributaries.
  1. Rig up with three- to four-inch paddle-tail jigs and swimbaits, with head/lure weights varying between one half and one and a half ounces.
  2. Set your speed between 2.5 and 4.0 mph.
  3. Set out two lighter lines by casting them as far aft as possible, then sweeping the rod tips a couple of times to let out additional line. Set these rods in far aft holders. Then cast out two heavier ones by making a cast off to the side of the boat and closing the bail (so the lightest lures end up farther back from the boat).
  4. Troll in a wide circle around the mouth of smaller tributaries, or around one side of the mouth of larger ones. Also try zigzagging along the channel edges. When you catch a nice fish be sure to note the location and begin circling so you can pass your lures over the same spot.
  5. Look for birds, of course, but pay attention to small groups that cluster and break apart rapidly. The pods of peanut bunker in the tributaries are usually much smaller than the big schools which will form out in the open Bay, so when the stripers chase them to the surface the frenzy often lasts just a minute or two and no more than a handful of birds gather up. While you might be wise to ignore such small groups of birds out in open water, in a tributary they should be read like a flashing sign that says “pull your lures through here!”