Where would you fish and When?
I was asked that question by Don so here it goes. Short version but who knows, I might have a book version one day.
January-power plant fishing in the bay, Potomac and Baltimore Harbor
February-Power plant fishing in the bay, Potomac and the harbor (especially the full moon in early February. At night, frozen deck, slippage, almost falling in turbulent water, big cows screaming drag.) Both fly and light tackle or heavy jigging gear.
However, this year was warm, the power plants sucked and I just figured out an awesome musky bite on the Potomac, James, New and Shenandoah Rivers. It was rather epic this year but I was late to the party. Only trying three times, scoring once, and scoring well this winter.
My one favorite thing that used to fish incredible for fresh water fly fishing was Dickerson Power plant on warm days in February. The large stone flies would hatch by the thousands and the fish would come up for the nymphs on the surface but ignore the adults. Had some good days on huge bluegill, crappie, smallmouth and even catfish. But then the warm water release got screwed up the last few years and the hatch still occurs but nothing comes up for them.
March-Early trout on the Pax, crappie, big crappie on the Lower Potomac and of course the gannet brigade on the mid Bay from the mouth of the Rappahannock to just north of the Choptank can be awesome. So can a few power plants fish incredibly well for striped bass in March, usually mid march. Then with a warm year like this year, the smallmouth bite on the Potomac from say DC upstream to Hanco.k or beyond can be incredible.
April-God I love April, where should I start? Where should you not go is a better response. The lower Potomac river gorge in Washington DC is tough to beat. There's just nothing quite like it to be able to catch such a mixed bag and such a large catch of fish in a short time and to top it off you're in the nation's capital. Night time, day time, first light, last light... my best striper day this year was mid day on a Saturday. Go figure.
Then of course the Susquehanna Flats in mid to late April. LIKE NOW! Almost any boat, from a 14' john, to a canoe, to a kayak to a belly boat could put you on the action. This past little north-easter just really got things booming.
I was fishing an intermediate line last week and doing well on small schoolies but I think if I had a floater I would have done better. Many of the fish were inches under the surface as we could see them all when they'd drift past our bow light when we did so well at night. Or when we were up on the skinnies in less than a foot of water there were giant slobs constantly swimming past us in the high sun but they had lock jaw. So we left fish to find fish. DOUGH! Never, ever, ever do that. I would have figured those giants out eventually.
May--- May can still be fantastic for striped bass on top water around a few rips along the shore of the bay. The susky flats closes on May 3rd every year but it's hot and heavy up till closing time. The Potomac river gorge still produces good schoolie striper action, snakheads, largemouth, crappie, and tasty white perch. Then there's usually a good showing of American shad but they really take some doing to find and stay on. I usually have a hard time pin pointing that bite but there can be a good one. IN ten years I might have lucked into two good white shad bites in May, up to mid May in downtown DC. From fletchers to chain bridge to even Georgetown.
Conowingo can often have incredible numbers of whites, aka american shad too around early May.
Okay, change gears and tactics a little, in May the surf fishing heats up along the eastern sea board in the Delmarva area. For a few years I was pretty psycho about it and did the whole Assatuegue island thing with my new at the time 4x4. I practically killed the truck, chunked more bait than I'd like to admit and basically got skunked. Then I'd see reports of giants and state records. So I'd walk on near the in-laws house to the featureless beach of Ocean city and catch three large stripers in a couple hours on Memorial Day. Go figure. Last year Indian River inlet received a blitz of large migratory stripers for three solid weeks in May. It was shoulder to shoulder on the shore and bumper to bumper on the water with boats. But many people did well.
I'm still in May.... Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel- gotta get down there near a full or new moon in May for giant red drum. check out www.kayakkevin.com, he's fishing the same area an old timer showed me long before Kevin made his movies, But Kevin has it down patent. In a kayak no less. The last of the migratory stripers set up on the shoals there and site fishing can be insane. But the bulls is the draw, the big bull red drum. I haven't hit a good bite there in a few years but when you hit it good, it literally made me give up. My arms were noodles, useless after 4 fish in a row averaging 30 pounds with a couple bottoming out a 50 pound scale. Bait, lures, flies, it would all work when a big school comes by. But often times it's covered up with nothing but giant sting rays and huge boat eating rollers. Can be very dangerous but the rewards, oh the sweet rewards.
June-Cape Cod Massachusetts to visit a friend and beat the stripers to death or wade the sand flats of Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard. My in-laws used to be very successful and owned a place on the island. I made more than a few trips and even without a boat the night time/ pre dawn hours with a fly rod were nothing short of spectacular. Then someone showed me how to fish a few rips from a boat and a live scup and the average size fish quadrupled. But that's bait fishing isn't it?
Back to reality and closer to home... the Musky post spawn blitz in June. Last year was a good one. This year will be too. Just might be a little sooner and might not last as long.
Trout fishing on the North branch in June with the march Browns or up on Pa's little Jay for the sulphurs. Or hit that little private water I have access to on Fishing Creek in Pa for brown trout out of a 20 foot wide spring/free stone creek that look like they came out of Lake Ontario or southern Argentina.
July... July sucks. But you said I could go anywhere. So, I'd fly up to cape cod on Southwest "bing" fares ($50 a trip) or visit my parents cabin on Lake Ontario for smallmouth as wide as your face. In early July they are still guarding fry and get mighty ticked off when anything approaches them in the shallow channels people cut into the bed rock to get a boat to shore.
Or back to the Potomac for some night time walleye. Or in early July hit the white fly hatch near Pennyfield and chase them up river as the month progresses. See a theme here? There's no reason to ever leave the Potomac.
August-night time top water for smallmouth close to home. Snakehead fishing the grass matts around Mattawoman Creek and Piscataway.
If I could go anywhere, I'd fly up to the Pere Marquette or the Little manastee in MI and go to "battle in the woods" with giant king salmon in a stream no wider than a pick up truck and lose 50 fish for everyone I land. Why, I don't know, but it's fun. Or Alaska for silvers but I've never done that.
September-Still way too hot but the mid Chesapeake Bay fishes very well with breaking fish and Spanish mackerel. You could chase breaking fish all day long and put up triple digits of fish from stripers, to blues to Spanish mackerel. Many of the schools are small fish but some will have all large 20 something inch fish and a 20 something inch bluefish on a fly rod or light tackle in the open bay will pull some drag for sure. Rather acrobatic too.
Mid September- The massive coho salmon run that usually ascend the lower salmon river. I only say the lower river because once they make it above I81 they vanish and by the next day most of the fish are sitting in the man made concrete hatchery raceways. They literally blow the entire river in a day but if you can somehow hit them when they first enter the river sometime between Sept 5th and the 16th, well, you'll see more fish than rocks and they spend more time in the air than the water. Crazy suicidal psychotic fish they are. Love me some hos. Just next to impossible for a married man with kids to hit that run just right. You would have to take off ten days in September and fish the lower river every day. 9 out of ten days you might only see one or two early king salmon moving up river but on that one day you just might encounter thousands upon thousands of 8 to 15 pound pissed off coho salmon all running up river at once. Try to find them the next day and they will be gone.
October-Steelhead, the most insane pissed off fish that swims in fresh water is an October and November steelhead. IN October there are tons of king salmon around and many of them are ripe as can be dropping eggs all over the place on the Salmon River. But the smaller, torpdeo shaped and minded steel are about as crazy and they come. I like to fish fast runs or slow riffles this time of year and swing, not bottom bounce, egg patterns. They will hit them just like a spey fly intended for atlantics and instantly go air born.
Plan a late October early November trip to the Erie tribs immediately after a rain and you'll fall on your face tripping over steelhead.
December the steelhead fishing continues. Or the muskie action heats up back home, so does the striper bite in the Ocean. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel can offer some legendary nights sight fishing under the light line f the bridge to cow striped bass mixed in with thousands of 20 inch "dinks". The friendly gannets could pave the way in the ocean to a blitz or the pilings of the bridge can hold watermelon size fish nearly every drift.
It's January again, stay in the ocean, stay in the bay, stay steelhead fishing because the crowds will be gone but the snow is measured in meters. Or hit the Potomac in search of musky because a good day musky fishing is just seeing one follow your fly or lure. But why do I do it? Why do I fish and not concentrate on a career or... okay, I'm changing subjects. My wife called me a "Degenerate fisherman" the other day. Hey, it's April, hands down the best month of the year for every fish that swims. Get out there.
Good read, thanks for posting.
Thanks for that breakdown.
I need to start taking more days off from work...
Wow! Kudos on a great job answering a simple question. Could anyone doubt the enthusiasm with which Salmo knocked that one out of the park? Now the onky thing left to ask is HOW did you come to pursue such diverse ops? I mean, was it via a wide circle of pals each willing to initiate you in their specialties, or did you just do a LOT of freelance exploring, perhaps. Very impressive either way, really.
Thanks and fish on, bro!
I actually figured most those fisheries out alone. From the Salmon river when my nonfishing parents accidentally passed through the town to get gas on our way back from Canada when I was 10. Tidalfish and worldwide angler before that helped a lot too, so did magazines like Field and Stream and Fish and Fly. I’d read up about a destination and hit it. A lot of freelance exploring I guess. I remember I figured out all the good Western, MD trout streams from just driving down hill. Then eventually I figured out how to read the regulation book and always carried a "Fishing in Maryland" magazine with me.
I still have quite a few old Field and streams from the 80's. One of them there was an article called, "Pennsylvania’s Best Kept Secret." It was all about the Juniata. My brother and I spent our birthdays from 10-14 up there. His was in April and mine was in October. Prime time. We caught our first musky and trout out of the river or its tributaries and really learned to fish too.
There's so many other fisheries that I didn't mention. More that I've done, too many that I haven't. Hayward, Wi Musky or Ice out Lake Ontario walleye and Pike, The Ganaraska Rainbows, The St. Mary's Atlantic Salmon, The Gaspe Peninsula for Atlantics, Cape Lookout False Albacore, Montana, the salmon fly hatch, Colorado, California long range trips out of San Diego to Guadeloupe for yellow fin, Alaska and my number one dream trip ..... Kamchatka. I can't say that word without whispering it. Even just with a camera to capture the untouched wildlife and forests. The last true remaining wild place on earth. But I'd probably die without a fishing rod.
One thing I would add to July and August is pilling hoping for cobia at the CBBT (still would love one of those on a fly) and hitting the cold water streams such as North branch for trout. July aint so bad.
Okay, one more thing I've done but not done well. I thought I had it figured out and I know every time I go way back there I'm learning something new.... Tarpon in Virginia in mid July through Mid August. So no, July doesn't always suck.