Mid December Bay Fishing

With weekend temperatures projected to possibly exceed 70-degrees and sunny, I bet every person that has already winterized their boats, wished they had waited till later.  I usually shut down my boating and fishing from Thanksgiving through to mid-March, but not this year.  Not having winterized the boat yet, I was most willing to take it out.  During the week however, Dave Knorr called in a favor to a friend for some fishing, and he was absolutely desire-some to get his new boat onto the water.


We have a friend of the company, who recently purchased a 42-foot work boat, originally made in Nova Scotia, named the Jennie C, and he offered to take us out for a day of Chesapeake Bay fishing.  Thank you to Captain John Keister and his 14-year son Jacob, who was our first-mate.


We launched out of Buzz’s Marina on St. Jerome Creek in Ridge, St. Mary’s County, Maryland.


It was right at 6:30 AM when we left port and got to watch the sun rise.  Leaving from the Marina and out into the Bay, our first point of reference was the Point No Point Lighthouse, and we ventured south past Point Lookout, the infamous War of Northern Aggression prison site and now State Park, and mouth of the Potomac River.  Off in the distance to the north we could see an area called the Targets, with the standing remains of a large ship used by the Navy (Patuxent Naval Air Station and Quantico) for strafing.

According to my navigation charts we fished waters referred to as the Middle Grounds, American Mariner, Mud Leads and buoy markers 70 through 72.  This area of the open Bay is just north of the Virginia/Maryland state line, north of the Cabbage Patch, with Northern Neck, Virginia to the west and Smith Island, Maryland to the east.  This is all new water to me, and the lower Bay, is where all of the fishing action is this month of December.  We were not disappointed.


Thank you Jake (Jacob) for being a fantastic and attentive first-mate.  This young Catholic School gentleman had a great work ethic, and was quite an entertaining sportsman.


As the morning progressed, we saw occasional fellow fishermen, but as the day continued, many a boat joined in.  Why not, 70-degrees in mid-December!


We trolled using umbrella rigs, with eight lines in the water.  The poles nearest the center-back of the boat went out the furthest and had lighter weights.  The fishing poles along the sides of the boat had heavier weights and were not as far out in the water.  This way we had an arch of coverage, with no line crossing.


Dave and I invited Dan Betz and Will Saffell, as well as a few other ESA employees, friends and family (Jeff, Steve and Jim).  Not knowing we were fishing until late Thursday evening, it was hard to get our friends to join with such little notice and also being 13-days (two weekends) until Christmas.


With a two-fish limit, we caught nine keeper striped bass, averaging a fish about every half-hour.  We were allowed to keep any fish 20-inches and longer and our largest fish of the day was 31-inches, but with half of our haul closer to the 30-inch range.  We had to throw several fish back that were in the 18 and 19-inch size class.


Will shows-off his first catch of the morning.


We saw numerous flocks of sea ducks and other birds, active gulls over the water, a northern gannet and bald eagle.


Dave strikes with a larger fish.


Big Bend, a delicious hefeweizen from Alpine Texas.


Yes, the fish was 20-inches.


This boat had Santa as the Captain, Christmas wreaths, interior garland and lighting.  The boat looked ready for an evening Christmas Boat Parade.


This odd looking boat was doing roof work on the Point No Point Lighthouse.


Natural gas tanker traveling to Baltimore?  What an unusual-looking ship.


Sea ducks pass by.  I wish I was better at bird identification by silhouette.


Nice one Dave!


This keeper will make for some delicious fillets.


Jake holds a fish that I caught.  The camera perspective made the fish look huge, and it was a healthy 31-inches long.  The largest striped bass that I have ever caught was a 44-inch citation several years ago, fishing the spring migration with Mike Lemon.


On my next turn around, I was able to land another nice fish.


Dan Betz on the retrieve.


These fish are migrating out of the Bay, and most were random catches on specific bathymetry (underwater contours), as small schools pass by.  We had two times when we hit into two fish on the line at once.


Going back to Port in the afternoon, we passed by the Point No Point lighthouse near St. Jerome Creek.


The work is not done yet.  It’s time to cut and distribute the fillets, with Captain John, Dave and Jake doing the slicing and dicing.


This opportunistic gull impatiently watches for scraps to hit the water, not dissimilar to my pet beagle, as he sits in an empty chair at our dinner table each evening, thinking he is joining in on the family dinner.  Not.


As we left the Marina in the late afternoon we saw a sun-dog in the sky.  The day’s are short, the sun angle is low, but what a wonderful day of fishing in what felt like the spring time.  I’ll take 70-degrees in December any time.

Thank you Dave for arranging the trip.  Thank you to Dan and Will for joining in.  And a special thank you to Captain John and his son Jake for being such gracious hosts for a great day on the water.