Live Lining for Stripers
Rockfish (more commonly known as Stripers) are abundant in the Chesapeake Bay right now, sometimes mixed in with Bluefish and/or Spanish Mackerel, sometimes in a school of breaking fish on the surface (although more often than not, they’re closer to the bottom).
Want some tips on how to catch them? First, let’s talk bait.
Spot are plentiful right now along both shores of the Bay, especially along the Chesapeake Beach
shoreline and near Tilghman Island. Ideally, you want the smaller/medium sized spot. These usually measure 4-6 inches in length. Standard double-hook bottom rigs, a few ounces of sinker, and a dozen bloodworms should help you catch 40-50 Spot. Plan on catching 4-6 Spot per Rockfish. Remember, there are Bluefish out there, too, that are notorious for cutting baitfish directly in half. If you don’t have a livewell, you can jerry rig a cooler with a wash-down hose. Livewells are essential for keeping your spot and other baitfish such as white perch alive while fishing. As a reminder, don’t forget a small dip net to retrieve Spot from the livewell.
Rockfish may be anywhere, but the area east of the main shipping channel from the False Channel to Buoy 4, and the Summer Gooses has always been a good area to search for a school of fish over which to anchor. Another area to keep in mind is between the north shore of Poplar Island and the mouth of Eastern Bay. South of Chesapeake beach (the western shore, side), near the cliffs (about 30 feet of water) has produced in recent weeks.
Once you’ve found some fish and the anchor line comes tight, it’s time to start catching.
Run your circle hook through the back of the Spot a little behind the start of the second dorsal fin but no more than one-quarter inch below the fin. If you plan on fishing a few rods, use one with no weight, one with a small pinch-on lead, and maybe one with a small egg sinker. Once you start getting bites, then adjust your weights accordingly. Don’t let your Spot hide under the boat – you don’t want your running line to get chafed.
If you’ve chosen to use a circle hook, remember to NOT set the hook; let the fish start swimming away with your bait for a second or two and then just start reeling and keep your rod tip up. If you choose a treble hook, be sure to let the rockfish take the bait for at least five seconds before setting the hook.
Sometimes making adjustments can make the difference between fishing and catching. You might have to move and re-anchor to find more fish or fewer Bluefish. You might need more or less weight or let the fish swim away with your bait an extra second or so. If you have fish under the boat but you’re not getting hits, try a fluorocarbon leader or smaller hook or both. If your Spot comes up looking less than fresh, toss it over and rebait.
Good luck, and remember, tight lines!