by Capt. Billy Pipkin
The world has experienced many changes over the past year, but our affinity for fishing remains steadfast. The ever-swelling number of boats on the bay and rivers suggests an increased interest in water-based recreation.
With summer in full swing, anglers are enjoying diverse catches. Variety is key this month as an abundance of species are available both inshore and in bay waters.
Cobia has amassed great popularity among anglers in recent years. Big game fishermen have shifted their efforts from the diminishing numbers of trophy rockfish to this large, aggressive species.
Cobia are without a doubt the most aggressive fighting fish in the bay during July. Their maximum growth reaches a length of over six feet and a weight of nearly 100 pounds. Typical catches are in the 40-50 inch class. They can be found throughout the Chesapeake Bay from the mouth up to Maryland waters. Local hot spots include the Cut Channel, lower Tangier Sound along contour lines from Windmill Point to the Great Wicomico River and as far north as the Southwest Middle Grounds. Many of these fish are found in relatively shallow water of 8-15 feet just above the drop off to deeper water.
Cobia prefer live bait to artificial lures. The baits boasting the best results are soft shell crab, live pencil eels, spot and croaker. The best way to present your bait is on a stout, sharp circle hook on a 40-60 lb test leader. Both fish finder rigs as well as free floating baits will entice bites. Chumming should be incorporated with live bait fishing and produces surprisingly rewarding results. My charters have landed several cobia in excess of 50 inches this season.
July offers croaker, spot, trout, flounder and bluefish. Spanish mackerel will increase in numbers this month as well.
Croaker are making a comeback after coming off a few good spawning years. They remain small but have been moving through the area for the past month.
Spot fishing continues to improve throughout July. These fish don’t really hit their peak until later this month. Basically, you can find them over hard bottom locations with oyster beds and in areas of structure. Although narrow strips of squid will work, bloodworms outperform other baits by far. Due to their small mouths, a #2 or #4 hook is recommended. A standard store bought bottom rig works just fine for most smaller bottom feeding species.
Trout fishing consists of both gray and speckled trout. Gray trout continue to be limited in numbers but have been more abundant lately. Regulations are quite limited with a creel of one fish per person each day, but they seem to be making a slow recovery.
Speckled trout have drawn a large following among small boat anglers seeking an exciting light tackle, in-shore experience. They can be found in shallow 3-5 feet of water where sea grasses are plentiful. The Piankatank River, Windmill Point and Dameron’s Marsh outside Ingram Bay Marina are all traditionally good locations to find these fish. Small jig heads with twister tails or drifting live minnows under a bobber will attract the attention.
Flounder fishing is far from its peak years ago, but should offer good catches along the channel edges near the Cell and inshore at the mouths of creeks where sharp drop-off are present.
Bluefish have arrived and will be abundant this month. Expect sizes ranging in the 1-3 pound class on average with occasional landings of up to 6 pounds.
Spanish mackerel showed up early this year and will peak late this month and into August. These beautifully-marked fish lend themselves well to grilling, smoking, and even salting. These sleek swimmers have a potential size of three feet in length and a weight of nearly 9 pounds. The local catches average between 16 and 24 inches in length.
Mackerel are schooling fish which, in many cases, feed along with Taylor blues. As with bluefish, they can be found feeding along the flats leading to, and atop the edges of channel areas. Spanish mackerel prefer a quickly trolled spoon at speeds of 5-7 knots. Size #0 Drone spoons and Clark spoons work well. A #1 planer will keep your baits deeper where the schools are present.
From catching to cooking, enjoy your experience with family and friends.
Until next time…Fair winds.
Capt. Billy Pipkin owns and operates Ingram Bay Marina and Capt. Billy’s Charter Service in Wicomico Church, ingrambaymarina.com, 580-7292.