The Fishing Line


September offers ‘fin’ tastic fishing

Fishing this month resembles the famous Jimmy Buffet song “Fins.”

While trolling, I often look out the window of my charter boat and watch Spanish mackerel and bluefish breaking water as gulls pick at the spoils from overhead. It is then that the chorus line, “. . . Fins to the left, Fins to the right. . .” comes to mind.

As water temperatures drop, fish begin strong migration and surface feeding accelerates. September presents anglers with a variety of methods to land some of the Northern Neck’s finest seafood.

The Fishing Line
Winning anglers in Dream Fields Spanish Mackerel Fishing Tournament were, from left, Jeff Cogswell, Kyler Reece and Travis Smith.

Bay and river action

There are several top water species that can be found in the big water of the bay and the mouths of major rivers this month. Fish drawing the most attention are Spanish mackerel, bluefish and red drum, although cobia are often found in the mix as well.

Anglers should find plenty of trolling action along the channel edges throughout the region. Trolling produces good results with simple lures. The only difference is varying speeds for each species. Clark and Drone spoons (#0 and #1) are the baits that closest resemble the shiners and small baitfish that are a main staple for most species this month.

An average trolling speed of 5-6 knots will entice some bites of each species, yet will likely land a majority of bluefish in your coolers. A slightly faster speed will entice more mackerel as a slower moving bait will attract more drum. Note: Set drags loose because the drum are tackle busters!

I have found that #1 planers are the best means of taking the lures to the right depths of 12-15 feet. As the fall progresses, it seems that the fish school a bit deeper in the water table. When this is evident, using a #2 planer will work best. 

Live lining spot or other small baitfish also entice drum and cobia. These fish often feed together. They will continue to school in southern Maryland waters, in the lower Potomac River, and from Smith Point down to the mouth of the Rappahannock. They will be feeding along the shipping lanes as well as on the flats and will come in waves as they continue to move southward in migration. This action should last for the majority of the month.

Skinny water

We refer to “skinny water” as creeks, marshes, inlets along the bay and rivers and other shallow water locations. During the transition into fall, these areas often hold fish that are not available in the deep water of the bay. This inshore fishery consists of speckled trout, puppy drum, striped bass and a variety of smaller species.

What makes the skinny water fishing so special is that it’s commonly found in protected areas that are well suited for small boats, kayaks and even for those anglers who prefer wading.  Fishing interest has swelled among naturalists and fitness enthusiasts who choose to explore nature and catch a fresh dinner at the same time.

Speckled trout fishing is one of the staples of skinny water. Quantities have improved this season and should offer good size specimens into October. Grassy flats in and around creeks are great areas to catch trout. Casting artificial baits has become the norm rather than the exception when seeking these tasty fish. Mirrolures, surface poppers and jig heads rigged with twister tails are among the many baits used to entice shallow water action.  Other methods include live minnows and small bunker baits floated under popping corks.

Puppy drum (redfish), striped bass, small snapper bluefish and croaker are often mixed with the specks. In addition to the large charter boat, I also offer in-shore charters aboard a 20-foot boat for two to three anglers. Folks really enjoy top water light tackle action for trout, redfish, and striped bass. If you haven’t tried skinny water fishing, you are missing a great time!

Bottom fishing will peak this month and should continue to provide good action into October. Spot have been very plentiful this year and are getting fat with the typical yellow bellies of fall. Whiting and grey trout are tasty species also becoming more plentiful at summer’s end.

Whether you fish big water or skinny, charter boat or kayak, this month promises to be memorable. Come out and join us for great fun among family and friends.

Be safe and until next time . . . fair winds.

Capt. Billy Pipkin, a saltwater fishing columnist, owns and operates Capt. Billy’s Charter Service and Ingram Bay Marina in Wicomico Church 580-7292.