The Fishing Line

Fantastic fishing; the September transition

by Captain Billy Pipkin

September brings tremendous opportunities for anglers. As water temperatures moderate, fish stage for a fall exit out of the rivers and down the Bay. September presents anglers with a variety of methods to land some of the Northern Neck’s finest seafood.


We refer to inshore as shallow water locations such as creeks, marshes and inlets along the bay and major rivers. 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 shallow 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 been down due to the freeze last winter, but action is improving and should continue 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.

On many occasions, anglers find puppy drum (redfish), striped bass, small snapper bluefish and croaker mixed in with the shallow water action.

Bay and river

There are a few 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 peanut bunker that are the main menu for all three 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. If planers are not part of your tackle repertoire, you may utilize 6-16 oz in-line sinkers.

This trio of 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. These fish will be feeding along the shipping lanes as well as on the flats. They will come in waves as they continue to move southward in migration. This fishing should last for the majority of the month.

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