The time for big stripers on Chesapeake Bay is now. The place, in a word, is Solomons. This is the locus for much of the good fishing, but "mid- Bay" or "Solomons" is standard Bay shorthand for the area from the Patuxent River into Virginia. Maryland's striper season ends Dec. 15; the Virginia striper season ends Dec. 31.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) will become the hotspot in late December, especially for fly and light tackle fishermen, with catch-and-release fishing allowed in this immediate area after the season closes. But - and it's a big but - it will be crowded and frenetic.
I got a chance to sample Solomons area fishing at the end of October. The Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Association held a board meeting at the Holiday Inn Solomons Conference Center and Marina in preparation for its annual conference at this location in March. We were also invited by Joyce Baki of Calvert County Tourism to experience the fishing there.
Our group booked a half day trip with two veteran charter captains of the area, Robbie Robinson, Captain of Miss Regina II, and Walley Talbert, Captain of Renegade. Both boats were typical 40+-foot full-cabin models, with licenses for six fishermen. When we met the captains at 7:30, both predicted fishing could be tough, with the stripers scattered and many undersized fish. Late October was likely a couple of weeks early for the big fish, although a few had been taken in recent days with sea lice, marking the beginning of the big stripers migrating south down the Atlantic and entering Chesapeake Bay from the C and D Canal to the north and the CCBT to the south. This information matched reports I'd been getting from other sources.
So we would troll proven areas and hope for the best. I joined Virginia writers Frank and Linda Mundy and Robert Thomas with Connie Yingling of Maryland Tourism aboard Robbie Roberts' boat, and the remainder of our group went with Walley Talbert. Captain Roberts, a veteran of 46 years of Chesapeake Bay guiding, made a long, beeline run to the area of Point No Point, just north of where the Potomac River enters the Chesapeake. Mate, Steve Welch, set out three trolling rods on each side of the boat and one off the stern. The rigs were standard Bay trolling outfits - 6-foot trolling rods, 4/0 reels loaded with 60-pound line with 80-pound monofilament leaders with various sizes of trolling sinkers then more leaders ending in 4-arm umbrella rigs with a pair of white or chartreuse 6-inch plastic "shads" per arm then a trailing bucktail and shad coming off the rear of the umbrella rig. The bright, chartreuse lines were marked at the appropriate depth for each to be let out.
Captain Roberts began moving us at a speed between 2.9 and 3.1 knots along a ridge 30-feet deep. The umbrella rigs worked right along bottom and occasionally bumped bottom. More often the rods bowed under with the weight of a striper. In four hours of trolling we caught nine keeper stripers between 20 and 31 ½-inches and more than a dozen fish under 18 inches. Smaller fish often came as singles, but usually the better stripers came two or more at a time, making for fast work for Steve and for Captain Robbie who netted most fish.
While Connie Yingling's luck held up in choosing the hotter of the two successful boats this day, for once she did not catch the biggest striper. Her 30-inch fish was topped by Robert Thomas's 31 ½-inch fish.
As stated the "mid-Bay" or "Solomons" area can be expected to light up from now until the end of the year. You can book a trip with Captain Robbie Roberts by calling 301-672-0383 and Captain Walley Talbert at 301-839-9270. For a list of other available captains, see fishsolomons.com and marylandcharterboats.com. The latter has a map of Bay areas. I'd say any of the captains listed in the areas from Cove Point to the Virginia line on the Western Shore and Tilghman's to the Virginia line on the Eastern Shore will be fishing this area, including Virginia waters, from now through the closing of the striper seasons.
Trolling was the tactic of choice the day we fished. With a rare lack of bird activity and little on the depth finder to pinpoint fish, we had to strain the water. But trolling for stripers is not the only fishing approach employed by Captain Roberts and Captain Talbert and many of these other guides. (Roberts told me one of his fall favorites is bottom fishing for white perch.) Fly and light tackle fishing, live lining and deep jigging can also be employed. Two light tackle guides I highly recommend are Mike Murphy on Hooper's Island, phone 443-521-2319, and Sonney Forrest at Solomons, phone 443-532-0836.
Solomons is also a favorite for private boats, with a spacious launch ramp at 14195 S. Solomons Island Road, MD Route 2/4, on the north side of the Patuxent River next to bridge. The Bay is big here calling for a boat of 20-feet or more on most days. However, excellent fishing is available this time of year for stripers, white perch and other species in the Patuxent from the ramp to Cedar Point. Boats as small as 16 feet suffice on calm days.
Solomons offers good restaurants and shops and a host of tourist attractions including a number of holiday events in November and early December. See http://www.solomonsmaryland.com and http://choosecalvert.com.