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TideWriters Tales
Chesapeake Bay Fall Fishing Frenzy
By Captain Ferrell McLain

     The fishing opportunities of the Chesapeake Bay run from May through December. That puts Labor Day right in the middle of the Bay’s fishing season—“halftime!” Many outdoor sportsmen hang up their fishing rods and get out their guns after August. They miss four whole months of great fishing.

     The Bay water peaks in August or early September in the mid eighty-degree range. As the temperature starts to drop, some species are signaled to begin migrating out of the Bay. These species including the Spanish Mackerel and Atlantic Croaker, have been eating and getting fat all summer. All the fish that have summered in the lower Potomac and Chesapeake Bay from Smith Point to the Susquehanna River will have to swim past Smith Point on their way south. Needless to say this makes fishing around Smith Point like an ambush!

     The Chesapeake Bay is famous for its Striped Bass ( Rockfish) fishing and the fall fishing for Stripers is the best of the best. Virginia’s Striper season begins in October and lasts through the end of December. During this time the Bay water temperature will drop from the seventies to just below fifty degrees. 

     Contrary to popular belief, the conditions are not cold, much less frigid! Most days the temperature gets up to the fifties, and I have seen it in the seventies in December. Even on the coolest mornings, the water temperature is still warmer than the air and acts as a massive radiator. Even on the coldest days in December, insulated coveralls are the heaviest clothes needed. A well heated boat cabin also helps keep anglers comfortable.

     From October through December, Stripers are the primary target, but sometimes there are also Bluefish and Grey Trout foraging the area. From October through mid November, the boats near Smith Point and Reedville, Virginia, focus on chumming along the channel edges to lure Stripers to the hook. This is very effective, and again, the weather is very mild. The air is clear and crisp – a great time to be outside and on the water.

     Sometime around the third week of November the big Stripers come into the Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. These fish are in the Bay due to the warmer water and the abundance of baitfish. The arrival of these Trophy Fish marks the beginning of the Fall Fishing Frenzy. Anglers fish for these monster fish, which can exceed 50 inches and 40 pounds, by trolling baits as big as twelve inches. If a school of feeding Stripers can be found, complete with diving sea gulls and splashing fish, hooking a really big fish is likely.

     Yes, fall is hunting season. But fishing season continues through December, and continues to get better. The last hurrah is the Trophy Striper Season. Certainly it is worth taking a day off from hunting to enjoy a beautiful day on the Bay and even land a Trophy Striper. You need to make reservations early if you want a good day.

     Captain Ferrell McLain operates BAYFISH Sport Fishing Charters in Reedville, Virginia. You can contact him for info or reservations at 888-BAYFISH, or see the web site at www.bayfish.net

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