by Capt. Billy Pipkin
Looking for size? September matters.
One may question if size really matters. Most fishermen would unequivocally answer, “Of course!”
This month affords the opportunity to land large samples of several species. It is during September that the water temperatures moderate and fish begin to feed more aggressively, resulting in greater weight and overall size. Several species boasting increased sizes during this period are redfish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel and spot.
Redfish, also known as puppy drum, are abundant both inshore and along the deeper channel edges of bay waters. Drum have been protected for many years with tight size and creel limits. Conservation efforts have paid off with the Chesapeake Bay now offering up hot redfish action which for years was only available on the Gulf Coast.
When found in shallow waters of the creeks and marshes, they will feed on both artificial lures as well as live offerings like soft crab or bull minnows. This is where most of the 18-26 inch slot limit fish are available. I have found great success with light tackle while casting over grass beds and near shore structure.
The large bull reds are found in the Chesapeake Bay. They frequent the top edges of the channels where they feast on peanut bunker and other small species. These fish will reach sizes in excess of 40 inches. They offer awesome catch and release action.
Speckled trout fishing is very popular in this region. Action picked up in late August and should improve during September. Grassy flats and oyster beds are great places to find these tasty fish. Specks in the 14-24 inch class will be the norm, yet larger fish in the upper 20s will be available during the next month.
Casting artificial baits has become the norm rather than the exception when targeting trout. Mirrolures, surface poppers and jig heads rigged with twister or paddle tails are among the many baits used to entice shallow water action. Other methods include fly fishing with clouser minnows.
Spanish mackerel will continue to bite into late month. The larger specimens have begun to show early, so be prepared for some ‘Mega Macks’ upwards of 30 inches.
Anglers should find plenty of trolling action along the channel edges throughout the region. Trolling produces good results with several different lures. The only difference is varying speeds for each species. Spoons (#0 and #1) are the baits that closest resemble the shiners that are the main menu for all three species—redfish, speckled trout and Spanish mackerel. Due to their size and strength, the bull reds will require a larger spoon with a more stout hook.
An average trolling speed of 5-6 knots will entice all the species. A slightly faster speed will entice more mackerel and a slower moving bait will attract more drum.
This trio of fish will continue to school in the lower Potomac and southern Maryland waters to the mouth of the Rappahannock. They will come in waves as they continue to move southward in migration. Many fish follow the western side of the bay but an area that should not be discounted is the eastern channel edges from Smith Point to the Cut Channel.
Bluefish seem to be consistent on both sides of the bay with the larger samples found on the eastern flats and locations holding structure. Trolling has been producing blues up to seven pounds with the average running one to two pounds each. They are often found mixed in with mackerel catches.
Spot are growing in size. These late summer specimens are referred to as “Norfolk spot” or “yellow bellies” and can exceed one pound apiece. The large spot are becoming plentiful over most hard bottom areas with most of the rivers and creeks holding them at this time.
Bottom fishing for many species will peak this month and should continue to provide good action into October.
Whether you fish from your boat, kayak or a charter boat, this month promises great fishing. Remember, because of size….September matters!
Until next time….Fair winds.
Capt. Billy Pipkin owns and operates Ingram Bay Marina and Capt. Billy’s Charters Fishing Service at the mouth of the Great Wicomico River. captbillyscharters.com, 580-7292.