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26952 Holly Ave.
Crisfield, MD 21817

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Fishing Resources

Of course it goes without saying that my favorite location throughout the Chesapeake is my home waters of the Tangier Sound. This area is located on the lower eastern shore of MD and actually encompasses a broad range from the mouth of the Honga River & Deal Island area South to Tangier Island in VA (it ranges from 10 miles in width to around 60 miles in length). The Tangier Sound is essentially an area adjacent to the main bay merely divided somewhat by the Islands of Smith and Tangier from the bay.

Our launching point is from my hometown of Crisfield MD departing from Janes Island State Park.  

Be sure to read the Techniques and Tackle section listed below as they contain essential info. that is useful in all areas not just the Sound. Of additional interest, I've added a newer article below "Techniques For Season Long Success" entitled "Weather Factors For Fishing" (click the linked text or scroll down)

 

Click this link (bold text) for general fishing chart of the Tangier Sound

 

There are of course other species that we will catch with lure & fly such as Red Drum, & Spanish Mackerel though not as regular as the ones listed above.

 

Techniques For Season Long Success

Article by Capt. Matt

On Tried & True Tactics for Improving Your Fishing

As Well As References To Some Fine Tackle Choices.

 

Keeping a few tips in mind can make all the difference between a successful day of “catching” and a not so successful day of just “fishing” (looking and casting for hours with little result).

 

Many anglers fall into the routine of fishing the same spots over and again without thought and many times don’t take into account all of the factors that can be the difference between catching and not catching. This leaves an angler thinking where are the fish, when is the best time to go, what lures or flies to use and how can he/she be more successful, especially when he/she may only have a short time to fish.

 

Being a guide, folks call or email me all the time for information about scheduling a trip and want answers to these questions. They are also interested in learning my area and learning, in general, what to do to be a better fisherman wherever they fish. Paying attention and being observant is a tried and true method. When asked, I tell people to key in on certain things on your outings whether with a guide or on their own until they come to pick up on little things and it becomes routine.  Jokingly, I like to say “just pay attention and you might learn something that you’re missing”. In truth, as the saying goes “it’s not just what you know but how you use it”

 

Follow this analogy of where, when, what, and how through the season and you can be more confident in your ability. Fishing with a plan is the key to success until it becomes second nature in the area you're fishing. Fish have patterns that they repeat so we should do likewise.

 

Springtime:

We're all anxious to get out and wet a line and hope to be rewarded after a long cold winter anxious to get back to our favorite sport of fishing.

 

To do this, consider where the fish move, for example where Stripers spawn. Keep in mind the regulations of what areas are off limits until the open seasons (many locations have designated off limits areas during the spawn at least where Stripers are concerned and others have areas designated as catch & release until the primary season opens).

Rivers and large tributaries are you're best bet. Being smaller than the open expanse of the Bay they warm up first and quicker since they're often shallower bodies of water. The bait that fish pursue are also more plentiful in the tributaries because of the more confined locations that offer cover.

 

You will want to fish the incoming tide after a cool night because the water in the rivers and tributaries also cool quicker and the flood tide will bring warmer water. Likewise is true after a warm day, the falling tide provides warmer water moving out of the shallows.

You will want to look for certain structure to target fish as well, such as grass beds and flats early in the day and move to stumps or fallen timber along the shorelines as the sun gets higher as they offer cover and shelter for fish and bait.

(good examples of shallow grass beds & structure shown below).

 

(Click photos to enlarge)

     

 

At the warmest part of the day you will likely find that the fish will move to deeper cooler structure such as rocks, wrecks or lights with rip rap and drop offs.

Remember in the spring when the water is cooler the fish are not nearly as aggressive, so work your lure or fly more slowly. When the water reaches the 58-62 range you can anticipate working the lure a little faster and so on as the water heats up. Once it starts to warm a good way of prospecting is covering lots of shoreline and structure with a topwater lure or popper to locate the fish.

 

Summer:

The Dog days of summer don't always spell the end of lure fishing in trade for bottom fishing. In my opinion there is no time of year that you really “must” use live or cut bait to catch fish. Of course feel free as an alternative if you prefer to or enjoy using this method. I don’t, so that’s about all I will say on that subject; artificial baits are my preference.

 

Trout (Weakfish and Specks) spawn when the water is warmer and are generally on the move and feeding heavily by early summer. Also many of the big stripers that everyone was trolling for have moved on and the school-sized fish (resident stock) are filtering into various locations and into their summer routine. Your best bet is to fish early and late day in the shallows and work deeper structure and drop-offs during the hottest part of the day when the sun is high. Rock bottom, jetties and structure such as Navigation Lights (larger ones with rip rap or rock formations around them are good bets). You can also find a fair number of fish like Stripers and Specks holding in grass beds when it's hot. When there is good current flow (which offers well oxygenated water) the grass provides excellent and cool cover for fish.

For some entertainment and a chance to move around and stay cool you might also look for breaking fish over open water in the Sound as well as throughout the bay. These fish are not always big but as it gets hotter and the water saltier you will often find schools of Stripers, Blues and Mackerel chasing bait. Also try dropping a bass assassin, a white or chartreuse bucktail jig, such as those made by Tidal Fish, or crippled herring jig beneath the schools of breaking fish for Weakfish (grey Trout or Yellow Fin in these parts) or Red & Black Drum holding deep below.

 

Fall:

My all time favorite season...the tourists and pleasure boaters go away and the true fisherman have a heyday.

 

Flats and Shorelines many of the same ones you've fished since spring come alive. Just when you thought the fishing was good it gets even better. The cooler it gets the hotter the fishing (to a certain degree anyway)


Be sure to fish the rip lines on points and confluences over open water (where water patterns meet due to troughs and drop-offs below to form a rip or current break). Check out stumps along shorelines in strong current that hold fish seeking shelter from the current waiting to ambush bait tumbling by.  Basically any submerged structure, hump or Island works the same way.


Throw topwaters for those aggressive fish, they love it and so will you. Remember when it gets later in the season those fish (predominately Stripers) are on the move and feeding as many head down the bay. As the Fall progresses you may find that fish are not holding in all the same spots or at least for a long duration so stay mobile and move with the tide from location to location.

Breaking fish is another Fall favorite throughout the open bay such as the mouth of the Choptank, off Hoopers Island, around the Middle Grounds, the Mouth of the Potomac, the Puppy Hole in the Tangier Sound, and generally pretty much everywhere. Sometimes its easy… look for the birds. This is not always the case. Look for what I like to call nervous water (ripples or disturbances in a central area that looks different from the surrounding water).

 

(Click photos to enlarge)

 

 

Look for birds sitting, they’re not just resting… they could be waiting for a school to resurface that you did not see since you just arrived. Also use your nose, if there is a fishy, oily smell in the air then something is chomping bait nearby so look for slicks on the water. Sometimes you can be cruising along (being observant of course) with not a bird in site and bam… your on top of a school of breaking fish.  *These factors hold true not just in the fall but summer as well where breaking fish are concerned.

 

Key  Factors:

 

ü       Fish move with the tide and use current and the velocity of the current to their advantage. Flood tide...fish move shallower (work the flats and shorelines and shallow structure). Ebbing tide...fish move out of the shallows and hold deeper (fish deeper structure and drop-offs). Flat or slack tide yields slower action so fish slower and deeper as fish are more wary and waiting for the tide to change. Know the tides and when they change for a given area.

 

You can often run a short distance and the tide may be changing or current moving at a different velocity. Using my area of the Tangier Sound for example, I can run from Crisfield to Foxes Island and there is about 30 min. difference in tides and to Tangier there is an hour difference in tides. In the narrower portions of the bay where you can run from West to Eastern shore and back you can often find a slight difference as well which could be enough to find fish biting strong for another hour. The affects of the current or its velocity are often overlooked. If you're not getting hits at prime locations think about it... observe and pay attention to what the tide and current is doing when the action is hottest and this can be a key reference to why the fish are biting best at a given location. This can clue you in on where to move or rather where the fish move when the action slows and its time to move on. There is a time to wait out a bite if the tide is changing or current picking up and a time to move.

 

ü       It's nice to relax and enjoy fishing without thinking about it, but it’s not always that easy especially for Lure and Fly anglers. Being prepared by fishing with a plan in mind at least until it becomes second nature just makes sense.

 

ü       Now you might ask what lure or fly to use or how to use it in a given situation, well this has endless options more than I care to go into great detail at this time, we’ll save that for another time. Let’s just say that if you follow the techniques listed above using perhaps your “favorite lure or fly” then that’s what works best. Sometimes it’s like they say “you have to be in the right place at the right time”. I will however reiterate… cool water fish slower, warmer water and fall you can fish faster and topwater. Ask yourself, does the species that you’re after feed off the bottom primarily or like suspended or topwater bait. Make these observations and they will answer your questions.

 

For those still looking for the top lure or perhaps most deadly assortment here’s my list:

 

·         4” Pearl Sassy Shad (universal works in many areas, fast or slow retrieve, a real go to lure. They're found at most Walmart, Boaters World, West Marine, Cabelas or BPS).

·         4-7” Bass Assassins (great cast & retrieve lure, works fast or slow, requires some finesse at times, match the size lure to the fish your after. Albino, Opening Nite and Chartreuse glitter are my favorites).

·         Tidal Fish Lures Rock Candy or Baby Minnow bucktail jigs.

·         Stillwater Lure Poppers Smack-it or Smack it Junior

·         Handmade Poppers Many patterns to choose from such as those from www.lonelyangler.com

 

(Click photos to enlarge)

      

 

Flies:

 

Basic clousers or deceivers in the following colors or combinations (all with Krystal Flash or the new DNA Holo Fusion, Holo Chromosome or Fish Fibers)

White (tried and true), Chartreuse (another goto color) Gray over white, chartreuse over white, olive over white, chartreuse and yellow, red, orange and yellow, pink and yellow, pink and chartreuse. The brighter attractor color flies are great for targeting Croaker and Specks.

 

(Click photos to enlarge)

 

 

There you have it, following the above techniques will help you be more successful all season long throughout the bay. It’s no secret, just like your teacher told you in class, “pay attention and you just might learn something”. Not to say that anyone is better than the other but we all become complacent and get into routines, some bad and some good. For me, I don’t know it all but am forever learning from my surroundings, other fisherman and most importantly from just being observant, try it sometime.

 

Tackle

 

Light to Medium spinning or casting gear: Generally a 6-7' rod coupled with an appropriate sized reel works the best. My favorite outfits are St. Croix Rods (tidemaster especially) coupled with a Shimano reel (I like Stradics & Spheros) or Okuma reels (the Eclipz is a saltwater favorite). For line I prefer to use braids such as Power Pro for its extremely fine diameter and no stretch qualities. Since I often get ask what I knot I use for connecting Power Pro to the leader and how to tie it I've provided this link on Power Pro's web site with instructions on how its done: PowerPro - Uni to Uni knot.

 

Lure choices: Everyone has there own personal favorites that no doubt work for them. On my boat I carry a small mix of lures such as Sassy Shads, Bass Assassins, Twister Tails grubs, bucktails and various plugs and poppers. See article above for detailed photos of lures. For most cast and retrieve type fishing I prefer shads and assassins as well as twisters. For vertical jigging or probing around structure I will prefer Assassins.

When people inquire what will catch the most fish, I without hesitation suggest using a 4" pearl sassy shad. This may not always be the case or be the best in all areas, however I have years of experience and proof positive that it works best for me here in the sound. I have all levels of fishing clientele from the experienced to the extreme novice and casting a shad and just employing a straight retrieve produces results.

 

Fly Fishing Gear: Generally your best bet for all around bay fishing is to use a 9' 9wgt. fast action fly rod coupled with a modest saltwater reel (adequate drag is suggested) and a sinking line in the 250-350 grain range.  My preferences on equipment are again St. Croix Rods (they also have some modest priced Fly Reels that work well), For the utmost in high-end reels my only choice are Tibor Reels (Everglades model) but a high end reel is overkill in most situations on the bay.

Other options that are well suited depending upon the size of the fish, line used and whether or not its windy (there always seems to be a breeze when you pick up a fly rod) are: 7, 8, 9, or 10 wgt. fly rods.

Line choices vary and there are countless options on the market. Having a spare spool or 2 is helpful and having a few different lines at your disposal is not a must but essential at times.

Floating lines we seldom use as the winds and current often hinder their performance. My suggestions would be to carry an intermediate for working poppers and fishing very shallow water and have a 250-350 grain sinking line for moderate to deeper water and swift current. Some fine choices in brands are Cortland or Teeny lines

 

Flies: I won't even bother going into detail as there are tons that will work. Let me just say that a few favorites or your basic Clouser Minnow or Lefty's Deciever will do the trick. I prefer natural baitfish colors and a few bright attractor colors. A good mix are white, chartreuse, yellow, blue, pink & gray as well as combinations of them with varying degrees of flash material mixed in. A new really great material is DNA Material such as Holo Fusion. See article above for detailed photos of some fly essentials.

Weather Factors for Fishing

The Affects of Weather and

How best to Deal with Them

When Fishing.

 

 

We’re all aware of how the weather plays a role in fishing…right? Sure, we all hate it when the weatherman forecasts wind or rain when planning our next fishing trip.

However, how many fishermen really know what affect changing weather conditions have on fish (the way they react, feed and so on), and better yet how to deal with the conditions and still catch fish.

 

My goal in writing this is to put into laymen’s terms what these so-called meteorological events have to do with going fishing.  Well, there is no really simple way to explain clipper systems, warm fronts, cold fronts, isobars and barometric pressure but knowing what affect they have on fish is yet another key to having a successful day on the water.

Your average fisherman just wants to go fishing not analyze the weather so basically if it’s suppose to rain he/she packs rain gear, if its suppose to be breezy… how breezy, is it “it could be a little choppy breezy or small craft advisory breezy. Nonetheless most fisherman just tune into weather channel on TV or their VHF to determine the overall conditions that they need to prepare for.

 

I like to consider myself pretty observant and try to take into account as many factors as I can that will improve my fishing and for my clients. This includes not just where to fish and techniques but whether or not it’s worth going out or how can I deal with the conditions Mother Nature has dealt me.

 

Let’s cover some of the meteorological definitions for weather that the average guy has not a clue about. 

 

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Clipper System: A fast moving weather sys. Typically referred to as an Alberta clipper. These systems form in the North (over Canada & Great Lakes region) and sweep south or southeasterly at a rapid pace and bring winds, some rain and cooler temps. But generally are quick to pass.

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Warm Fronts & Cold Fronts are just that, these are weather patterns that pass through and change the temperature by several degrees up or down. Warm fronts introduce low pressure and usually indicate rain. Cold fronts on the other hand introduce high pressure and are associated with cooler drier air.

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Isobars: These bars on commonly used on weather maps along with triangles or half spheres. I won’t go into great detail of all their meanings but for definition purposes they are used to represent wind. The tighter the isobars or lines are together the higher the wind forecasts.

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Barometric pressure: This is one of the major factors used in predicting weather. Again, without going into to great detail I’ll just highlight some of the major features. As noted above warm fronts are associated with low pressure (falling barometer) and cold fronts are associated with high pressure (rising barometer). During a warm front the barometer will usually drop at the approach of the front and level off when it passes. The wind will typically shift east-northeast to east-southeast and finally south-southwest. During a cold front the barometer will usually rise and winds will shift clockwise around the compass from east-southeast to south-southwest before the front. Strong gusty winds will often follow behind the front.

 

 

This all sounds like a lot of information to remember, well it is but you don’t necessarily have to remember it but rather just how to deal with it as I will go onto discuss.

 

Fishing in the Rain & Wind

 

Rainy conditions are typical in the spring (usually March, April and May) and just as the water is starting to warm up it will rain for what seems like days and cool things down again. Heavy rain also over time will freshen the water (decrease its salinity) and in the bay and surrounding tributaries it will often make a mess of the water with run off (cloudy muddy conditions resulting in poor water clarity). Of course fresher cooler water and low salinity send fish a little deeper at times, cloudy to dirty water is not really preferred by any species especially Speckled Trout but Stripers are a little more tolerant. The resolution is to fish deeper and look for clearer water. Fish will often hold on the edge of dirty to clear water and at a thermocline or depth where the temperature and pressure better suit them (we’ll discuss the effects of pressure in the next section).

Wind can be an advantage and disadvantage. Some of my best fishing has come on windy days. Fish tend to like choppy water, lesser species and baitfish are less able to fight strong currents associated with wind and therefore get tumbled in the current or cannot out swim their prey making an easy meal for the fish.

The fisherman can take advantage of the wind which diffuses the water’s surface clarity (making their overhead presence less visible to the fish). A great place to target fish is against shorelines and points where the wind is rolling waves against the banks. This wave action makes these spots prime hunting grounds for fish chasing bait thus making it prime for fishermen as well. The disadvantage on the other hand is that over time the wind can make the water turbid and cloudy sending fish in search of cleaner water in which to hunt their prey. As mentioned above just look for the dirty/clean water line or fish deeper, fish often go to the outer edge of flats or cover looking for clean water and also may hold in potholes or troughs.

 

Barometric Pressure and Fish

 

Warm fronts and cold fronts as described above affect the temperature and winds and are associated with low and high pressure. Of course over a prolonged period changes in air temperature will affect water temperature but during the short term they only have a marginal affect or change to the water surface temperature. The real affect during the approach and passage of fronts comes with the change in barometric pressure.  All fishermen know that as weather changes it seemingly has an affect on fishing some short term and some longer term.

 

Well, the reason it affects fishing is explained in barometric pressure or rather the rising and falling of the barometer. Changing weather impacts whether or not we go fishing depending upon how severe the weather but fish are already wet so they don’t’ really care so much if it rains, they like to swim in the waves and current so they don’t care about the wind that causes it to be rough. What fish are concerned about is being comfortable and finding food.

 

Have you ever heard of a swim-bladder in fish… of course you have. What I bet you didn’t know is that barometric pressure affects a fish’s swim bladder. That’s right; air pressure affects fish under water.  Barometric pressure is one of the most talked about but least understood factors that affect the way fish act.  Learning why fish eat one day and don’t the next is often the mystery.

 

Let me explain in a little more detail; first lets address a little scientific data. Barometric pressure produces a lot less pressure on fish than the water does but it does affect them in shallow water. The entire column of air above the earth’s surface is defined as weighing one atmosphere. To move from the surface of the water to let’s say 16 feet deep is also one atmosphere of pressure. The small amount of change in pressure caused by a frontal system is less than the pressure of a fish swimming down two feet. Basically a fish can withstand 10 times any change that barometric pressure causes and the deeper the water the greater the pressure compressing their swim-bladder. Now let’s take a closer look at the biology of a fish. The fish’s swim bladder is a gas-filled sac that controls buoyancy, if a fish starts to descend, the increased pressure from the water results in a compression of gas inside the swim bladder. If the fish swims shallower there is a decrease in water pressure and so the gas in the swim bladder expands. Where barometric pressure comes into play is when the pressure changes suddenly as it does with the passage of weather fronts (warm= low pressure & cold = high pressure) these sudden changes affect the pressure on the fish’s swim bladder (again more so in shallow water) thus making them uncomfortable (due to the expansion of their swim-bladder) and less interested in feeding (or chasing your lure/fly) and more interested in finding more stable pressure found at greater depths.

 

Is your head spinning yet or is your brain cramped...while researching this phenomenon for facts mine was. Irregardless of whether you understand and can follow all of this data it does in fact offer the explanation of how weather and the barometer (the rise and fall in pressure) affect fishing.

 

Some general guidelines for dealing with the affects of barometric pressure when fishing are as follows:

 

Pressure

Type of Weather

Affect on Fish

Techniques/Tactics

High

Clear Skies/Bluebird days.

Fish are slower and lethargic. They hold tight to cover or in deeper water. Don’t expect high numbers.

Slow your presentation. Target cover and deeper water.

Fishing S-l-o-w can spell s-u-c-c-e-s-s!

Rising

Skies clearing and weather improving.

Fish are starting to become more active.

Fish with brighter lures/patterns and near cover/structure. Work varying depths.

Normal to Stable

Fair

Normal fishing.

Experiment or use your favorite lures/flies.

Falling

Conditions starting do decline. Approaching front.

Generally fish are more active and feeding.

Speed up your presentation. Work topwater lures and fish shallow. Pack the rain gear just in case

Slightly Lower pressure

Usually overcast or cloudy.

Fish generally move off cover, chase bait shallower and will become more aggressive.

Work the shallows with moderate speed retrieve.

Low

Rainy and Storms

Fish are wary, become less active the longer these conditions exist.

As action subsides try fishing deeper, head for the dock, go rent a movie :)

 

Let’s face it there are compromises with everything in life fishing is one of them. It’s near impossible to have perfect weather and conditions most of the time and we’re going to have to deal with the conditions Mother Nature deals out if we expect to go fishing.

Armed with a little knowledge we can make the best of most conditions so know your areas, and watch the weather on TV or listen to the weather channel on your VHF. With some preparation and common sense (knowing when to stay in or call it a day) will make your fishing trips more successful and enjoyable.

 

Notes: I’m no weatherman, nor am I a fisheries biologist. Information stated above is from my personal experience. I did research both in terms of meteorology and biology science throughout the internet and other sources which were deemed both credible and accurate.  

 

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Additional Links of interest:

MD Fishing Regs.

VA Fishing Regs.

Coastal Conservation Assoc. MD

Salisbury Fly Shop