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Went North this afternoon off Smith Islandand managed 3-38" and a 30 ". The man was around by the line. A little rough but had lots of birds and bait but the fish had lockjaw. A beehive would form you hit it and come up with nothing, bait top to bottom screen total red. What we did get was cought on white in about 20 feet of water, nothing hit the green.
 

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Archie, Good going. Based on the past week reports, that was a good spot to fish. We were planning on going in that area too. Only got as far north as mid bay (37 deg N) oceanside by 10 am or so. Decided to fish instead of pounding for another 15 minutes or so. We got one 30 incher on an umbrella rig. Wished we gone the extra 5 miles or so north. OC
 

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Archie, thanks for the report. If I had gone out, I probably would have done the same thing you did. Dr. Allen provided a very good explanation/observation from another post that could explain what is happening with the gannets and bait but no fish. I've copied it here.

Dr. Allen's comments........

I have been fishing longer than many of you have been alive...25 years ago most recreational boaters began fishing in May and put their boat away just after Labor day weekend for the winter lay-up!. At that time folks were astounded that I said I fished right up to Christmas day. That was usually my cut off...Approximately 5 or 6 years ago, we began complaining about how poor the fall fishing was. The rockfishing was poor until Thanksgiving...we could usually count on the arrival of some nice rockfish by Thanksgiving. I could count on going over to the High Rise of CBBT and catch a limit of 32 inch fish and be home in time to drive ot Richmond(9:30am) for Thanksgiving dinner;taking two rockfish to my sisiter. It was like clockwork. Very predictable.

The fishing experience in the time period between Oct 4(opening day of the season) and Dec 15 has changed rapidly. Those years I caught the Thanksgiving catch, we could count on the length of the CBBT being covered with big fish by Dec 5th. Now, when the large fish arrive, they do not necessiarliy congregate along the CBBT (in daylight)..and when do we now count on the BIG fish...JANUARY ...but where are they this year?? The big fish are still in their summer habitat...Snow will drive the fish south...but there has been no snow up north. Snow falling into the salt water must melt(laws of physics)...the amount of heat required to change snow to water is immense...the heat is extracted from the water into which it falls. So an inch or two or snow falling into water shocks the fish and drops the surface water immediatley...My mentor, Dr. W. A Boatwright, now deceased, told me 40 years ago that when the first snow falls in VA..the rockfishing ends...(he was mainly referring to James river -where we fished regularly) snow on water is the message telling the fish it is time to get out of there...Times are changing...weather patterns are changing. Fishing is different from just a few years ago.

I had a long time employee who grew up in Pennsylvania : she would often comment that the lakes and creeks would freeze annually. Everyone had ice skates and that was their primary winter passtime...ice skating...She says that none of the lakes freeze any longer and no one ice skates up there. It has been years since they had freezing lakes.

I remember a time when Jack Travelstead , inquiring about tautog fish, of which i did a lot in spring and fall, when there were few rockfish hereabouts. , asked me if there was a winter fishery for togs...i said "no, most everyone puts their boats away about Jan 1.."...I could never say that today..Fishing is almost year round now. The winters are milder; this winter is an extreme example of the changes..The fish are still north and will not come down until some snow falls or until extreme cold comes to New England, NY and NJ...

This year is much different from last...last was different from the one before. The fish are later coming from the North. They may not come any further than they already have...unless we get a dramatic weather change...There are still lots of big cows inside Chesapeake Bay...many I believe are still up pretty far north(with bait). The few fish that are at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay are feeding on one inch long Bay anchovies...that is about all there is to eat there right now...that is why there are no gannets there...gannetts cannot survive on Bay anchovies...terns and a few rockfish can.

Saturday a neighbor said there was a mile of gannets feeding in 16 ft of water off Smith Island Sat..but they could not catch a fish...nor were there any signs of fish...lots of bait..no fish...I told him during the cooler weather, without plankton or surf mud , the gannets could see the bait-fish and did not need feeding rockfish to drive the bait to the surface...Gannets could see through the water column and could dive and feed on the baitfish all the way to the bottom in 16 ft..the birds need fish beneath the bait in deeper water, driving them to the surface to be food for the birds. ..so most of the time a rule of thumb for me is do not fish in that shallow water under gannets, as they will fool you much of the time. 30+ feet depth with gannets yields much higher percentage of fish than gannets in 15 ft of water. I believe there are many gannets up inside Chesapeake bay and show up here when the upper bay chills sufficiently.

Just some personal observations to add to your own...

Bob Allen, Hampton VA (age 73)
 
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