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June 12th, 2015: Perch and Croaker Success Despite Wind

Summary

This was our first Friday summer day off, and we got a late start. We first stopped about a mile from the #1 green at the Rhode/West at a live hard bottom near a ledge, and saw no marks. Then, we went east to just south of the #1 green, looked around for 10 minutes, and could not buy a mark. We next went due south on a hunch to the 85A green can, where we saw numerous small to medium-sized marks in the bottom half of the water column.

We set up just east of the can in 27 feet of water and started drifting south, driven by the wind. Within a minute, Kate tied into an 11 to 12 inch croaker, and the skunk was sent packing. On the same drift, I caught a 10 to 11 inch perch, which was iced down along with Kate's croaker. The drift continued, and the bite slacked off when we got to 17 feet of water. We continued drifting over the oysters to about 13 feet over oysters, got no takers, then repositioned and repeated the first drift.



We caught perch in the 10 to 11 inch range, slowly but consistently, on the next several drifts, and in the same spot as the first hookups. The bites always occurred on the ledge in about 20 feet of water at the beginning of an oyster bed just after the bottom sloped up from 27 feet. Our overall fishing range was 15 to 30 feet, and there was an oyster bar that ran from about 20 feet of water and continued up the ledge to 15 and eventually 13 feet. We got bites on almost every drift, and averaged one or two hookups per drift. We eventually focused on the productive area near the drop-off, but chose not to anchor due to the wind and waves.

Kate and I had two fish on simultaneously at 2:55 pm, and both were boated. Mine was a 10-inch perch, but Kate's was a bronze colored 12½-inch perch, ½-inch shy of a citation. Kate also landed a second 11 to 12 inch croaker on one of our first drifts, but I did not catch any croakers.

While bottom fishing, I also targeted rockfish with a small menhaden steak using a Baitrunner reel and a fish finder rig. I started out using a 1 oz sinker on my fish finder, but switched out to a 2 oz weight to get the chunk to the bottom. In addition to the clusters of smaller marks near the bottom, which were the perch and croakers, we saw the odd larger arches, which we speculated were rockfish. I got no takers on the chunks. On the last drift of the day, after an unusually fruitless drift, we each tied into one last fish. Kate lost hers before it came into view, and I landed and released mine.

At 4:15 pm, we noticed a line of thunderstorms just west of Frederick and heading east. This was our signal, so we packed it in. Additionally, the winds were now a steady 19 to 20 knots, and the waves were now a nasty 2½ to 3½ foot chop on top of rollers. We left the fish biting. We ended up catching 12 fish during this short series of drifts, 10 perch and 2 croakers. Our eight-fish haul for the day consisted of two 11 to 12 inch croakers, five 10 to 11 inch perch, and Kate's jumbo perch measuring out at 12½ inches. We were underway at 1:45 pm, started our first drift at 2:45 pm after looking around and finding marks, finished fishing at 4:15 pm after spotting the storms, and pulled the boat at 5:30 pm.


We Caught Our First Croakers of the Season Today

Conditions
We were at the limits of fishability today with respect to wind and waves, but we got no rain. The opposing wind and tide stacked the waves but slowed the drifts, which salvaged the day. Also, the wind was actually a relief temperature wise. It was sweltering inland, but we were cool and comfortable on the water despite the rocky drifts. The air was humid and unsettled, but the visibility was better than the last time out. We could see Poplar as well as the Bay Bridge.

High tide at Thomas Point Light was at 1:42 pm, and low tide was at 7:50 pm. High tide at TPL on Thursday when Norm and I ventured out was at 12:42 pm, and low tide was at 7:02 pm. Sunrise was at 5:40 am, sunset: 8:31 pm, and the moon was 26% full and was waning. The salinity at Annapolis was around 9.5 PSU, and was fluctuating over the past 30 days as rains came and went. The Annapolis buoy recently came back on line after being knocked out in late winter, but apparently data was collected during the down time.


Note the Skyrocketing Winds and Plummeting Barometric Pressure After Noon on June 12th

The atmosphere was hot and unsettled, and there was a lot of energy in the air. There were scattered high, thin clouds, with cumulous clouds rolling in later. A line of storms developed just west of around Frederick at about 4 pm, but the mountains broke up the line. We were never threatened with storms, but we got some rain while driving home. The air temperature was 93º inland, and in the low 80's on the bay; there was a lot of energy in the air today. The water temperature in the main stem of the bay was 76º F.

Winds were out of the south all day, started out 14-15 knots, were 19-20 knots by 3 pm, and backed off to 17-18 knots on the return trip. The waves started out as a 2+ foot chop, and increased to a 2½ to 3½ foot chop with rollers, building and stacking as the outgoing tide picked up.

The barometric pressure was falling sharply the entire time that we were out, which could have partially explained our relative good fortunes. Once again, the wind was higher than forecasted, and was originally supposed to be 10 knots with gusts to 15 out of the south. The wind out of the south opposing the outgoing tide was actually a plus, in that the drifts fluctuated slightly around 1.5 miles per hour the entire hour and a half that we fished. Once drifts reach 2 miles per hour or greater, it began to become unfishable. Ironically, the tide opposing the wind, and at the same time stacking the waves, kept the drifts to a relative minimum.

Baits and Lures
We used bloodworms and frozen menhaden chunks. We had standard bloodworms from last week, and bought six jumbo bloodies today from Marty's. We tried small menhaden chunks with no luck, and chummed other pieces of menhaden as well as some of the old bloodworm. A variety of jigs were brought, but not used, and no trolling gear was brought.

Details of our encounter with big perch and big waves can be found below.



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Not Ideal, but Workable
We were planning this Friday day off for a few weeks now, and as the day approached, the weather looked promising. The outlook three days prior was for 3 to 5 knot winds out of the south and sunshine, which would make for a perfect day for targeting white perch and croakers over the live hard bottoms. By Thursday, the wind was blowing out of the south at 15 knots, and the forecast for Friday was for 10-15 knot winds, not ideal, but workable.

Thursday Night Blowout with Norm
On Thursday night, Norm and I decided to venture out in the hopes that we could find some lee. Fishable conditions in waters holding fish were not meant to be. After getting hung up at work, I met Norm at his house, and we headed out at about 6:30 pm. We splashed the boat, headed out to the mouth of the South River, and were met by a stiff 15-knot wind and a 2 to 3 foot chop. Strangely enough, there were not many white caps, and no significant rollers. We reasoned that this was because the tide was starting to rise and was running in the same direction as the wind.

Norm suggested trying the lighthouse, but, white caps or not, these conditions were punishing, and we opted instead for some piers in the lee at the south lip of the West River. We tried several shallow areas in the West and Rhode Rivers that had produced for us in the past, and got nary a whiff on any of our jigs or spinners. The fish were still in the deeper waters, and we ended up taking a boat ride up the South River. "Well, we're on a boat, and other people are not", commented Norm at one point as we were dodging the wind. We ended up in a creek upriver where we were treated to a decent sunset as we ate our sub sandwiches. We pulled the boat well after sunset, and I turned in later that night hoping that tomorrow's fishable forecast would hold.


Thursday Night: Where There Was Lee, There Were No Fish

Sticky Morning

I arose the next day to a hot and sticky Friday morning. At 9 am, the temperature at our house was already in the low 80's, and the humidity was so thick that one could cut it with a knife. Unseen blue jays squawked and shrieked in the distance while downy woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches, one at a time, visited our backyard bird feeders to take a peanut or sunflower seed. A male and female ruby throated hummingbird stopped by at regular intervals to sip nectar from our hummingbird feeders or to simply perch and rest next to our potted tomato plants. I stepped out onto our deck, and the humidity hit me like a wall. "Wheew!" I said softly but aloud as I noticed the treetops swaying gently in the wind.

Either Today or Nothing
I went back inside and re-checked Fishweather for the latest conditions and forecast. The forecast was still for 10-15 knots, but the wind at Thomas Point was currently 15 out of the south. "Oh great!" I thought, as I checked the forecast for the next day. The following day was forecasted to bring 15 to 20 knot winds, and Sunday was not an option. It was either today or nothing. I went upstairs and apprised Kate of the situation, and said that if nothing else, we could stay in the river and try to find perch holding deep in the channels. I then went downstairs, prepared a lunch, and loaded gear onto the truck. During this time, I changed out a couple rods from flounder rigs to live lining/chumming rigs.

Late Start
We ate breakfast and ended up getting a late start, and at around 12:30 pm, we were on the way to the marina by way of Marty's. We dropped by Marty's to pick up a six-pack of jumbo bloodworms, and barely missed Jim. We then drove the short distance to the marina, then loaded and launched Unfinished Business. The flag at the marina was waving, but not snapping as it might due to really high winds. We were underway at 1:45 pm; it was hot, but the breeze was actually a relief as we headed out to the river and rounded the corner at Turkey Point.

There was a healthy chop on the surface of the water, but the ride was actually not that bad and much more comfortable than the ride across the bay a couple weeks previous when we went to Oxford to raft up with Norm and Sherry. We were able to ride on plane, and made short work of our jaunt to the first spot that I had in mind.


On Thursday Night We Made Lemonade

Looking for Marks
We stopped about a mile from the #1 green at the Rhode/West at a live hard bottom near a ledge, and saw no marks. Then, we traveled east to just south of the #1 green, slowed, and looked for marks over the oysters. In ten to fifteen minutes of slow cruising, we saw no marks to speak of. "Now what?" I thought to myself. On a hunch, we traveled a couple miles south to the 85A green can.

We slowed to a crawl above the green marker in about 25 feet of water, and immediately started marking fish. The fish were small, and clumped in bunches in the bottom third of the water column. "Check this out Kate," I observed. Kate handed me the cutting board she had retrieved, looked at the meter, and encouraged me to start cutting up bloodworms. I then cut up a couple bloodworms left over from last week, baited up a bottom rig, and handed it to Kate. "Drop it off of this side," I said, as I motioned to the south. It was now 2:45 pm, and we started our first drift even with green 85A.

Fishable Drift
I then baited up my own rig, and dropped it over the side. I was wondering how fast our drifts would be, but to my pleasant surprise, we were only moving at about 1.5 miles per hour. "The drift looks pretty good, and not too fast" I commented, as I was sending my bait to the bottom. It was now just after slack high tide, and the tide was beginning to fall and running counter to the stiff breeze out of the south.

A Quick Catch
Within a minute I heard Kate say "Oh! Nibble! Nibble! Nibble!" I looked over to see Kate's rod tip twitching, and with no coaching, she waited for the fish to take the bait, and made a successful hook set. Kate began a retrieve, as her rod twitched vigorously. We could both tell that this was no tiny white perch. "Stay on! Please stay on" I pleaded aloud, recalling how Kate had lost three fish last week after hooking up. Soon, a very familiar metallic brown form came into view. "Ooh! That's a croak! Haul it in!" I said excitingly, as Kate hauled the 11 to 12 inch croaker over the side. The skunk was sent packing, and I snapped a quick picture of Kate and her mid-bay delicacy, our first croaker of the season.



"We Have Breakfast"
No sooner had Kate's croaker been iced down, than my rod started to twitch in its holder. "Holy cow! Another one!" I announced, as I picked up the rod and retrieved. I made short work of my fish, and soon, I was hoisting a 10-inch white perch over the side. Kate took a couple pictures of me with my perch, and commented "We have breakfast, and we'll have dinner too if we keep catching". I iced the fish alongside the croaker, then we redeployed our lines and continued the drift. We continued drifting over oysters as the water column sloped up from 17 to eventually 13 feet of water, and we did not get another strike. So, we raised our lines, then slogged our way to the south into the wind and waves. We started a new drift, this time starting about 100 yards upwind of the green marker.

Slow, Steady Catching
We continued, and we caught perch in the 10 to 11 inch range, slowly but consistently, on the first several drifts. During this time, Kate added a second croaker of similar size as her first to the cooler. We would not only be having perch and croaker for breakfast, but we would not have to settle for rockfish for dinner. When we first started looking for marks, there were high, thin clouds punctuated by scattered small cumulous clouds. The cumulous clouds grew in both size and number as the afternoon progressed.

A Jumbo Perch for Kate
Kate and I had two fish on simultaneously at 2:55 pm. I landed my fish first, and it was a perch in the 10-inch range. As I was unhooking my fish, a bronze form came into view at the side of the boat as Kate giggled with joy. "Look at this, it's not small," Kate commented. "Ooh, that's big! Get it in! Get it in!" I commented, as Kate carefully lifted her 12½-inch perch over the side. Whereas the smaller perch were silvery white in color, this jumbo specimen was a golden bronze color blending to almost black on the dorsal side.


A Half Inch Shy of a Citation

Chunking for Rockfish
In addition to our bottom fishing rigs, I fished a small menhaden steak using a Baitrunner reel and a fish finder rig. I started out using a 1 oz sinker on my fish finder, but switched out to a 2 oz weight to get the chunk to the bottom. In addition to the clusters of smaller marks near the bottom, which were the perch and croakers, we saw the odd larger arches, which we speculated were rockfish. The idea with the Baitrunner and chunks was to target stripers, and at one point, Kate commented, "If we get a rockfish, take a picture and let it go". I agreed, adding, "Yeah, because we already have a better grade of meat". We never got any hookups on the chunks, which was a bit of a surprise.

Breezing Up: A Double-Edged Sword
It was breezy from the start, and the waves were stacking up the entire time that we were out; by the end of the day, the winds were 19 to 20 knots sustained. While repositioning for a new drift, the bow of Unfinished Business would sometimes nose into a wave and we would take on a little water. While drifting, we positioned the boat sideways to allow for more fishing room for both of us to fish, and there were times when a wave crested only a few inches below the port side gunnels despite the vessel's high freeboard.



Applying a lesson that I learned during our overnight stay in Oxford when we had two grueling bay crossings in sizable waves, I ran the bilge pump in automatic the whole time that we were out. The waves today were bigger than we would have preferred, but 2-3 foot waves are still better than 7 am to 4 pm at work any day. The air temperature was about 10º cooler on the water, and the breeze was actually comfortable if one were to ignore the big waves. The breeze today was definitely a double-edged sword.

Approaching Storms
Since there was a chance of afternoon pop-up thunderstorms, we decided to stay relatively close to the marina without traveling too far afield, which turned out to be a wise choice. At 4:15 pm, we noticed a line of thunderstorms just west of Frederick, extending from southern Virginia to up into Pennsylvania, and heading east. This was our signal, so we raised the lines, and began cleaning and stowing gear. Plus, the waves were now a nasty 2½ to 3½ foot chop on top of rollers.

Leaving Them Biting
On the last drift of the day, after a fruitless drift, unusual for today, we each tied into one last fish. Kate lost hers before it came into view, and I landed mine. I considered harvesting this last 10-inch culinary delight, but decided to release it instead. With most of the gear stowed, I suggested, "Let's move up shortly, get just above that honey hole, and do one more drift. I'll bet we'll get two more". I was vetoed, and with good reason. "No, we'd better not, not with those storms coming." We left the fish biting.



Surfing Home
We started back north at a little after 4:45, and we surfed home very comfortably on the 3-foot waves. My only complaints on the ride home were having to work the throttle continuously to soften the ride, and I was actually very dry but hot sitting behind our wrap-around shelter as the sun beat down on my skin. I enjoyed a light beer once we reached the sheltered confines north of Turkey Point.

Thirsty Boat
We reached the marina by 5 pm, and had the gear transferred and the boat pulled and cleaned soon after. Next, we drove to the local Sunoco gas station, a stone's throw from the marina, and bought Unfinished Business a pricey drink. She was thirsty and drank 25 gallons of gas. We had her back in her dry storage spot shortly thereafter.

Thirsty Crew
By now it was pushing past 6 pm, and the western sky was showing just a hint of gray. The heat was absolutely oppressive, and Kate and I drank 2 or 3 bottles of water in the time that we pulled the boat and topped off the tank. I opened up another ice-cold bottle of water and handed it to Kate, as we both took shelter in the shadow of the boat. Kate then grabbed my hand, and placed the cold water on the inside of my wrist where veins and arteries pass close to the surface of the skin. This immediately offered cooling relief.



Victory Celebration
Next, we took the fish to the cleaning station, where we took laid out our catch. As Kate snapped pictures, I cracked open an ice cold Truth IPA by Flying Dog as a victory celebration. For the next 30 minutes or so, I cleaned and filleted our catch. By the time that our processed catch was on ice and we were heading home, it was almost 7 pm.

We were greeted by a rain shower a few miles from the house, and were back home settled by 7:30 pm. The approaching line of storms broke up to some extent over the mountains, losing some of their punch, but we made the right choice to leave when we did with the waves stacking up on the bay and the strong line of storms to our west.



Summary
We ended up catching 12 fish during this short series of drifts. Two of them were strong and spirited croakers caught by Kate, and the rest were harvest-size perch. Kate gets the angler of the day award with her two species and a jumbo perch a scant half-inch shy of a citation. Our eight fish haul for the day consisted of two 11 to 12 inch croakers, five 10 to 11 inch perch, and Kate's jumbo perch measuring out at 12½ inches.

Saturday Breakfast and Dinner
We had perch and eggs for breakfast the next day. We also had grilled perch for dinner that night using a Martha Stewart recipe with the fillets marinated in a mixture of olive oil, lemon, garlic, Greek oregano, and thyme.

 

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Donnie;
You had me at:
Kate then grabbed my hand, and placed the cold water on the inside of my wrist where veins and arteries pass close to the surface of the skin. This immediately offered cooling relief.
 

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Holy Cow, one of the best reports ever...Thanks for so much detail...My kids have been hounding me to take them bottom fishing. I guess it's time.

Thanks again for the great report...I truly wish we saw more reports like this.

Dbm
 
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