Revised Flats report
April 19, 2012
The Susquehanna Flats is the place to be in mid to late April if you’re a diehard fisherman, or any fishermen for that matter. Every year millions of stripers ascend the Chesapeake Bay to spawn and many of them move to the top of the bay to feed on the bounty of herring moving towards the Susquehanna River. It’s an orgy of biblical proportions. The “experts” say that typically fish do not spawn on the “Flats” or the area of the mouth of the Susquehanna River that is like an enormous sediment trap collecting all the deposition of silt flowing downstream from Pa and NY. But this just so happens to be a prime area for fish to congregate every year and because it is so popular with recreational fishermen, it is one area that the DNR permits catch and release fishing where spawning occurs. All the other rivers, except the Potomac, are closed to fishing this time of year to allow the fish to do their thing. Except this one. I’ve been fishing it for close to ten years. In that time I’ve seen some epic fishing with giant fish attacking top water lures for hours in less than three feet of water.
Well, Ed decided to meet myself and John Chucoski up at the flats on Thursday morning. Originally John and I had planned to fish together but then he had another friend who wanted to go with a well equipped trighton jet boat. I used to fish this area with a 22’ deep v center console with a trolling motor on the bow so just about any boat will work. I’ve also circled the entire 25 mile area with a 14’ john boat so if you pick your days, you’re okay. I made the phone call to Ed and he was all about it, especially since I sent him a few links of recent fish reports to drool over. But John’s friend canceled so John C and I spent most of the day on Wednesday piecing together a tiny 16’ beat up lowe John boat.... in the rain I might add. So it’s 4pm in Mt. Airy and we finally have it working properly. Now we just have about 3 hours of traffic to fight. But we got there just before sunset and John caught a fish on top water literally on his first cast. Prick.
I struggled at first but threw spoons and caught a few too. These were small fish in the 18 inch category. Then dark soon rolled around but we stuck it out. Once ten o’clock rolled around and neither of us have ever been able to stick a fish in the true dark hours on the flats (river yes, not the flats), we started finding the fish. Just when I was ready to throw in the towel to move up river or well down the flats John hooks up with a fish of a life time. We had the fish at boat side what seemed like a half dozen times but every time I’d go for the leader to tail or gill the fish, it’s surge back down under the boat. Well, one of those times it rubbed the line under the boat and broke us off. We estimated that fish in the high 40” category and with spring time fat striped bass, that also equates to pounds. A 50 inch rockfish (striper) is almost always right at or near that 50 pound number. We stuck quite a few 30 inch class fish in that same area but for some reason left fish to find fish on a popular rip down south, in the middle of the night on a new moon with cloud cover. We were basically traveling 8 miles in the open bay with no GPS chart plotter. We get to a spot that has produced epic days for us in the past and blanked out. It was near 1:30am when we finally gave up.
We were getting our vehicles ready to spend the night in under the train tracks around 2am. Then here comes a train! IN the middle of the night! Okay, move over to the other ramp and manage to catch two hours shut eye until Ed texts me an hour early. Ed is a real die hard. Making the trip alone in the dark for an early departure and he’s 30 minutes early. I ran to get some coffee and he’s already at the ramp wondering where I was. I slept there, I swear.
So we hit the spots where we had fish a few hours earlier at prime time before sunrise and came up empty. I couldn’t believe it. So we later joined the masses of boats up north and caught quite a few “dink” rockfish in the 16 to 22 inch size. They wanted a jig (1/2 or ¾ oz jig head with long skinny chartreuse plastic called a bass assassin) here ripped hard off the soft bottom in about 8 feet of water. We couldn’t find the larger fish so in Ed’s Jet boat we circled the flats and searched and searched. Most people run the perimeter of the shallow flats in the marked channels. But with a jet boat, a rock proof jet boat capable of skimming on sand we ran straight up the gut in a foot or so of water. Ed was completely comfortable running on plane too. All was good until we’d spot pod after pod of striped bass swirl to get away from our boat. We must have stopped a dozen times to cast at the swirls in clear shallow water. Then we finally made a positive ID. These fish were the legendary giants we were after, all up on the flat impenetrable to all the other ocean and lower bay going deep v vessels playing with dinks up north. The masses of fish were in the skinny water and we had them all to ourselves. We each saw fish that were well over trophy potential as they lazily swam past and even under our boat in about a foot of water. But they just wouldn’t hit a thing we were throwing. I did get a few dinks on spoons but we knew there were monsters out there, they just had too much sex on the brain and were not feeding. But seeing those fish and being so far up in the shallow stuff and having them all to ourselves was something I will never forget. Now we just need to figure them out. I know it can be done as I’ve done it many times before. I just wished like heck I could put the musky guru himself on a good top water bite of spring Chesapeake Bay slobs. He’d forget real quick about musky for a while. But it wasn’t meant to be. We burned an entire tank of fuel chasing only small fish. Towards the end of the day the tides must have been perfect and the wind was blowing our almost empty fuel tank and boat back to the ramp but the fish were finally active. The tiny ones anyway. Ed put it together too and was schooling me hard catching a fish every single cast with multiple strikes per cast too on the good old lucky craft. He probably caught 10 fish in ten casts and we wondered what was wrong when a cast didn’t get hit, all while drifting west in a 10mph east wind for probably an hour. There literally must be over a million fish up there. All tiny males, spewing milt even though they were so young. Most fish were 16 inches or so with a few near 20 maybe.
We called it a day with me practically passing out on the rear deck. I knew I was in no shape to drive home yet, just before sunset too. Just at the perfect hour. I said my good byes and had to refuel with some food and 4 mountain dews prior to driving home. But that itch caught me one more time and I just had to go throw a surface popper on a rip up river at lapidum well accessible from shore. The tides and water level was perfect. The sun was setting just right, the cows should invade any second now. Nada. I had just fished for 30 hours straight with maybe three hours break in-between. I was cooked. But made it home safely by midnight, begging to return. All it takes is that one tide change, maybe a little rain, some variable to turn the dinks into giants and numbers can equal incomprehensible catches on those flats. They can potentially fish better than anywhere else in the world with respect to size and numbers in a given time but it only lasts for maybe three weeks a year and only on years without heavy rains. So, now’s the time. Maybe ten more days left before they close the flats to fishing for striped bass and when the season up there returns on June 1, the big girls will have long since left for their summer homes in Cape Cod. So when are we going back?
Here’s some fish porn.
Here's a 30 something inch fish that John C caught on Wednesday night. Our first success fishing the flats at night. His modified crystal minnow was hammering the fish. I think this fish hit while he was making that good night sweet phone call to his wife. I can't believe he didn't drop the phone in the water. Terrible cell phone picture. But you've got to get those fish back in the water ASAP to continue spawning. (translation: I was too lazy to reach for the other camera.)
This area was well up on the skinny stuff and no body but us and the fish dare made the journey. There was just something eerie and special about that cross on that one lone stump. Glad John and I didn't tbone that thing the night before. But wow were there some giants up near there. With lock jaw. :angry:
Ed putting on a field day hooking up almost every cast towards the end of the day.
Except they were mostly this size. But they sure could still put a bend in a rod. I just wish he could have felt a biggun. Oh well. Next time.
Check out www.opportunisticfisherman.blogspot.com
Thanks for sharing. Great read.
We put our time in at the flats this year on Saturdays . Caught quantity not quality. Next year.
Entertaining post,were you the first visible boat out there on that end Thurs.Just asking cause I got out there before daylight and saw 1 other boat on the entire flats and was thinking wow they must have stayed out overnite.
Originally Posted by Salmo trutta
Hey, that console and the shape of that boat looks like Ive seen it before. Thats a Rock Proof Boat. I just got mine in the fall. Check your PM.
jon....all the years I've been up there I haven't seen a "Mass Spawn".....this year I did. All the people fishing that area were very good about not doing stupid things in the midst of the spawning....most people watched more than fished.....small males would hit a plastic or spoon occasionally. Great report!!!!
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That was a great read and a lasting memory for a lifetime!
"The Cross Log" 3/18/2012.
Last edited by 240 LTS; 04-23-2012 at 05:06 AM.
Great pictures of the stump.
What a wonderful post.You guys are sure hard core. I love that picture of the cross over the sunset.Thanks for taking the time to post one of the best I/v ever heard on this forum.AL