Telling fish stories
This week marks the 44th annual White Marlin Open (WMO) tournament in Ocean City. While I’ve been enjoying the cooler weather in Southern Maryland this week, the anglers fishing for almost 5 million dollars in prize money were less-than-thrilled with the wind and rain earlier this week, with just 12 of 353 boats venturing out on Tuesday.
Only 30 miles away in Salisbury, an EF-1 tornado touched down on Monday, causing damage to buildings, shattering glass windows and doors, and toppling over vehicles. Off shore, storms can be dangerous and deadly, and taking a day off for safety’s sake is a prudent decision. According to the rules, boats can fish 3 of the 5 days of the tournament and the latter half of the week had the better fishing days.
The scales close tonight at 9:15 p.m. and the weigh-in is bound to be a nail-biter. As I’m writing this, just one white
marlin has been brought to the scales and while that one measured over 67 inches, it didn’t meet the minimum weight of 70 pounds for the category so the big prize is still up for grabs.
I have mentioned in the past that many big-time fishing tournaments stipulate in the rules that winners may have to submit to a polygraph test to receive prize money. Very clearly spelled out in the rules of the WMO, anglers agree to take a polygraph test for any fish worth $50,000 or more in award money. Even with the 2017 WMO going on this week, a dispute over 2016’s 2.8 million dollar winnings is still in federal court. A judge ruled earlier this year in WMO’s favor, disqualifying Phillip Heasley and the crew of the Kallianassa from collecting the money in question.
The case is complicated, but the crux of the matter is WMO asserts that the Kallianassa was in the water before the 8:30 a.m. start time and falsified records. What didn’t help Heasley and the crew’s account is that every single one of them failed multiple polygraph tests. We may never know exactly what transpired that day in August 2016, but in this day and age, a go-pro camera or cell phone pic could provide solid proof if questions arise about the legality of a catch. Heasley has appealed the ruling and it looks like this year’s prize money will be distributed well before we hear the final word on last year’s standings.
What a difference a few days make. While the weather has cooled down quite a bit, the fish are still reliably in a “summer pattern.” According to Anthony Hancock, assistant manager of Gilbert Run Park, bass are biting best early and late in the day on topwater lures and soft plastic baits fished slowly around shoreline cover. Bluegill and redear sunfish will eagerly eat pieces of nightcrawler or crickets (which can be purchased at
pet shops) when fished under a bobber. Hancock has even heard of some nice crappie caught by fishermen jigging small, soft plastic lures around deeper dock or bridge pilings.
The spot, perch and croaker bite remains strong. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the white perch population is up quite a bit so the good fishing is here to stay, at least for a few years. A double hook bottom rig baited with bits of bloodworm is the preferred bait, but a little peeler crab will do the trick too. Potomac River — Reel Bass Adventures guide Andy Andrzejewski (301932-1509) says summer patterns remain stable with grasses the place to be. Frogs or poppers will get aggressive strikes along with some interest from snakeheads. Ned rigs, jig worms, and finesse worms worked around hard cover are catching bass with the bigger fish going for swim jigs and wackyrigged stick worms. Grass beds in creeks
or along the main river with baitfish activity are primo places to target.
Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box (304-862-8151) says rockfish showed up Sunday in the Potomac in big schools, breaking and attracting sea gulls, with the mouth of Herring Creek on the stones a good place to look for them. Lamb also reports shore fishermen are finding spot and croaker at Piney Point in the public fishing area under the St. George Island Bridge.
Chesapeake Bay — Walleye Pete (703-395-9955) reports huge numbers of stripers breaking on silversides now and the late summer pattern is on. He’s been encountering huge numbers of stripers with blues mixed in from South River all the way to the gas docks. He just recently moved his boat back to Solomons Beacon Marina for the late summer/fall run of wildly aggressive and numerous stripers, blues, and specks in the Eastern Shore islands of Hooper, Bloodsworth, Adam, Holland, Spring, and South March islands. He highly recommends using binoculars to locate schools of fish, stopping often to look
for birds over fish or just the fish breaking without birds nearby. Once located, use a 1-ounce Hardhead Custom baits jigging spoon in white, chartreuse, or a mix of both colors worked vertically or cast across the school and worked back quickly.
Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box (301-863-8151) reports bluefish and Spanish mackerel are taking trolled surgical eels from Point No Point to Point Lookout. No birds or jumping fish will give away their location so fishermen must troll blindly or rely on depth finders. Anglers can find spot about halfway out onto the Point Lookout Pier with bluefish on the end. Lake Anna (Va.) — Bass are moving a bit closer to shore due to the cooler weather and topwaters in the morning and at night
remains the best method to get one on the end of your line. During the day, target the outside edges of grass beds uplake. Crappie are holding on bridge pilings and will take live minnows in 1015 feet of water.
Atlantic Ocean — The flounder bite has been really slow the past few days in the Thorofare, behind the airport, off the Route 90 Bridge, and in the East Channel. A Gulp! and minnow combination works best, but 9 out of 10 are throwbacks. Last Saturday was the 10th annual Flounder Fishing Tournament hosted by the Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce. One hundred and sixty-eight anglers entered the tournament and only 12 fish made it to the scales, with the winning flounder measuring just under 20-inches.