The Fishing Line

Autumn fishing from catchin’ to cookin’

by Captain Billy Pipkin

With water temperatures gradually retreating back to seasonal levels, an abundance of fish are now available for our fishing pleasure.

This has certainly been an anomalous year for fishing. A cool spring found the fish arriving late to the party and record amounts of rain left salinity levels so depleted that even nettles didn’t show in local waters. Yet, despite the potential for disappointment this year, we found a strong presence of cobia, excellent populations of spot, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and a healthy mix of other species.

In-shore fishing provides good action through early November. Speckled Trout are increasing in numbers in local creeks as well as in shallow protected river locations. Most anglers prefer to cast artificial lures but live offerings such as minnows are working well this month. The trout are averaging 12-16 inches in length. They are limited to 5 per person with a minimum size of 14 inches (only one may exceed 24 inches).

It’s amazing how popular the in-shore fishery has become. We are running many more small boat charters this year. Casting light tackle in the shallows offers a nice alternative to our bay charters on our larger boat. With miles of shoreline holding a favorable environment, options are endless.

Kayaks and canoe rentals are also available at Ingram Bay Marina for folks who want to experience fishing solo in a natural environment along the shorelines. Access to the great fishing action is only a short distance away from the marina.

Red drum (puppy drum, redfish) continue their fall run throughout October. These fish tend to school with the trout in shallow water and are often landed while casting lures inshore for speckled trout. This year sizes are reduced somewhat, but sustained numbers have kept anglers busy. Restrictions include a bag limit of 3 per person between 18 and 26 inches in length.

We are also catching and releasing large drum in bay waters where migration continues this month as they head out of the bay.

Spot fishing, which is currently mixed with whiting and grey trout, gradually slows with the close of October.

Striped bass fishing has begun in shallow water but bay action is likely to be delayed until late October and I don’t expect many large rockfish to show until late in the year. Casting, trolling and chumming are all effective methods of landing these fish.

Virginia’s Striped bass (rockfish) season began on October 4 and continues until December 31. Regulations state that anglers may keep 2 fish per person, 20-28 inches, but allows one to exceed 28 inches.

Bay waters continue to provide excellent action on bluefish up to 7 pounds and beefy Spanish mackerel, and due to slower migration, an occasional cobia or drum. With bluefish so plentiful, it is a shame not to incorporate them into your next seafood meal. Many folks shy away from eating bluefish due to misinformation about the taste. Bluefish is not only a healthy choice—it is delicious.

There are many ways to prepare bluefish. One of my favorite methods is to smoke them. Then they freeze very well, especially when vacuum packed. I have a simple, yet proven smoked fish recipe that works well with bluefish and mackerel. It may be used for other fish like striped bass with a few minor changes to lighten the marinade. I have more of my favorite recipes available on my website at captbillyscharters.com.

Fish hard but, most importantly, have fun!  Until next time . . . fair winds.

Recipe

Six one half pound boneless bluefish filets. Scaled with skin on.

Brine: 1 quart water, ¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup kosher salt, ¼ cup sugar, 4 bay leaves crushed, 2 tbsp mustard seed, 1 tbsp whole peppercorns.

Combine water and soy sauce. Stir in salt and sugar. Pour over filets in shallow pan then add remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate 4-6 hours.

Remove from brine. Dab with towel and let rack dry over newspaper until tacky to the touch (3-4 hours). This forms a pellicle to give the smoke a good surface to adhere to.

Smoking

Preheat your smoker to 200 degrees. Place dry fish on racks and smoke for one hour. Drop temperature to 150 degrees and continue smoking for two hours or so. When finished, fillets should be moist but firm. Enjoy as is, or in a dip or paté.

Capt. Billy Pipkin owns and operates Ingram Bay Marina, IBM boat rentals and Capt. Billy’s Charter Service located in Wicomico Church. ingrambaymarina.com (804) 580-7292.