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New approach helps lure stripers


In the four days out the first week of the trophy rockfish season, at least one trophy fish had been hooked per day, and three trophies had been caught and released -- including a 49-incher taken on a white spoon at the south side of the mouth of Eastern Bay.

But early last week the fishing slowed, for me at least.

The channel edges off Poplar Island and Bloody Point did not yield a keeper during short trips Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Frankly, I began to think I might not catch another fish above the 36-inch minimum.

But in mid-week -- while talking with Rich Novotny about this weekend's Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association bluefish tournament -- I decided to change tactics.

Novotny, executive director of the MSSA and a charter-boat operator, said those aboard his boat, Oh, Thank Heaven, had taken a number of trophy fish from the same area of the Chesapeake Bay off Kent Island.

"I think we have had 10 or 11 that could have been kept," Novotny said. "All of them on Crippled Alewives, and all of them basically from the mile markers down a little past the red bell [No. 86].

"I bet I haven't spent more than a couple of hours anywhere but there."

Novotny has a bit of a different way of defining "there."

If you have been out trolling, trolling, trolling for stripers this month, you might well have fallen in with the convoy of boats that run the channel edges north-south or south-north on either side of the bay.

Novotny is among those who troll diagonally in a general east-west, west-east manner.

"The idea," Novotny said, "is to find the fish, the depth in which they are on a given day. If you are always running north to south in 60 feet of water, the only place you will have the opportunity to find the fish is in that depth."

Trolling across the tide will take you, if you are so inclined, from the shallows across the deepest parts of bay and the back to the shallows. Novotny tends to stay away from water less than 50 feet deep.

But that doesn't mean his lines are running deep. His advice is to keep your lures -- No. 19 or 21 Tonys, or 9/0 or 11/0 Crippled Alewives, for example -- in the top 20 feet of the water column.

There is a good reason for this. At this time of year, the bay is warmed by sunlight, the top 20 or 25 feet of water will be a good deal warmer than deep water, and the trophy stripers will seek the warmer waters on their way down the bay.

In fact, the stripers I have caught this season all have been taken on spoons trolled no deeper than 15 feet.

In fact, although we have been using different brands of spoons, Novotny and I had been doing almost everything the same -- reels, rods, leaders and spoon color selection -- and he had been catching more fish.

Everything except regularly trolling across the tide.

Late Friday morning, after a slow, tortuous troll along the eastern channel edges from Bloody Point to the mouth of the Choptank River did not turn up a fish, I decided to horn in on Novotny's little corner of the world off Kent Island.

North of Bloody Point, the convoy of boats had formed, trolling south to north. We edged in, southwest to northeast. Within 20 minutes -- oh, thank heaven -- two stripers had been taken and released from 60 feet of water a couple of hundred yards southwest of red bell No. 86.

One was 29 inches, the other 39.

MA Same tackle, similar lures. Just a little different approach.


Rich Novotny, executive director of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association, recommends the following, five-rod trolling spread for spring stripers and bluefish (length of line out can be counted based on 10 feet per traverse of Penn 309 level wind reel):

* Starboard quarter rod, 8 ounces of sinker at 90 feet back

* Starboard transom rod, 4 ounces of sinker at 140 feet back

* Center transom rod, floater with no weight, 200 feet back

* Port transom rod, 2 ounces at 160 feet back

* Port quarter rod, 6 ounces at 120 feet back

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