Author: Colby Uva
Summer Micro Rockfish In The Pautuxent River
This weekend Alberto let me and Fiona stay at his river house on South Chesapeake Bay. The house is located on a small creak that leads out into the Pautuxent river and out into the great bay. We left Washington DC at 7am and got on the highway to Maryland. By 9am we were loading the boat and heading out into the bay.
Once we were out there, I was taken by surprise, just how deep the Pautuxent is. In some parts the depth sounder read over 100ft in depth. We saw some large marks in the screen, I'm thinking they were rockfish (what locals call striped bass). I tried trolling some artificials with trolling baits to get a hit, but nothing was having it. Most of the marks were from 20, to 50 feet, so I would troll, then out the boat in neutral to let the artificials sink down and then bump forward. We trolled for a while, but really didn't get much action. We did however end up snagging a legal size blue crab, something the state of Maryland is famous for.
The original goal was to set up a trot line and catch some blue crabs, but as it turns out, the local regs say you can only set up a trot line within an hour of sunrise (which we had already missed), and an hour before sunset. We headed in towards the house thinking that we might take a bit of a break and then head back out to set the trot line.
On the way I noticed that one of the back creeks had some movement on the surface of the water. I idled the boat into the area and had Fiona cast a small x-rap along the shoreline to see if we could pick something up. The 20Lb braid on her spinner allowed her to make long casts into the creek and work the xrap slowly along the edge of structure, including fallen trees. She took many casts, but nothing seemed interested.
While Fiona was casting, the ripples continued and I decided to pull out the cast net. I'm glad I did, because within two casts we had about 100 menhaden and one decent croaker. I couldn't get the live well running, so I pumped some water in with the salt water wash down hose and we headed out the creek. At the first drop off we anchored where the water dropped from 6 to 30 feet in about a 20 yard space and dropped baits.
Almost immediately Fiona hooked her first striped bass. It was a micro bass about 12 inches. The next rod to get hit was the one with the croaker. This one fought a lot harder, it came up and it was an almost legal striper, taping out at 17 inches. We let it go and kept fishing.
Next, one of the spinners starts SCREAMING! I pick it up and it rapidly heads across the surface towards one of the markers. I'm thinking HUGE rockfish so I loosen up the drag as it nears the piling in order to not break it off. The current is going away from the marker, so that turns out to be a big help and the fish drops back away from the marker. As it nears, it turns out to be a big cownose ray. I tighten up the drag and pop her off.
The sun is starting to set, so we head back in the creek to set our trot line for blue crabs. We give it 1/2 and hour and give it a check. No crabs to be seen, so we dock the boat and start scrubbing her down and get ready to make some dinner. Overall it was a great trip on the Chesapeake (my first) and we were very grateful to stay at Alberto's river house.
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