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Fishing Forecast: Interest growing along with crab population

Meghan McCorkell has more.

The big fishing news I've heard this week comes out of Ocean City, where reportedly nine-year-old Emma Zajdel of West Ocean City decked a 90-pound plus cobia to possibly set a new state record and a new IGFA Small Fry world record. A buddy first showed me the photo of the monster cobia (apparently he's a friend of a friend of the girl's father) and the Coastal Fisherman magazine reported that the 94.60-pounder was caught at Little Gull Shoal. If you're curious about how this plays with NOAA Fisheries' closing cobia on June 20, Maryland allows cobia fishing in its waters, and Little Gull Shoal is within the three-mile limit. I emailed DNR's Keith Lockwood about it and he says the agency is awaiting the paperwork so they can formally certify the catch.

On the local striper scene, it's more of the same as the huge 2011 rockfish class continues to fuel an incredible summer run. Otherwise, more bluefish are being caught from the Sharp's Island light past Bloody Point — trolling hoses and spoons — and more are moving north daily. Spanish mackerel are not far behind. Croaker fishing is only slightly better, spot remain but a memory and white perch are fat and abundant. If you're enjoying a nice bump in crabbing compared to last summer — I'm seeing more heavier crabs, especially — that's because the Chesapeake's blue crab population is growing, according to a study released last week by Chesapeake Bay Program.

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Starting up the bay, Captain Jeff Popp on the Vista Lady has been fishing out of Bodkin Creek. Trolling light boat rods and jigging rockfish has consistently produced his client's limit of rock. He adds the fishing has been good at the Baltimore light across to LP buoy.

When I caught up with Bud at Fishbones in Pasadena he said a huge pod of bottlenose dolphins rolled through the fleet fishing Baltimore Light area the other day, possibly snacking on alewives, bunker, croakers or maybe even rockfish. Bud and others told me about schools of breaking rock off Gibson Island as well as at the mouth of the Patapsco River. For the most part, it's a very early bite for the breaking fish. Bud says the crabbing has leveled out some, and clams catch better than chicken necks.

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Mike Killelea says he's finding keeper rockfish from the mouth of the Severn north past Sandy Point. Current is the key. "No current/tide meant no fish. Strong current/tide and we found fish," he adds. "Pods of breakers from mouth of Severn to the bridge yesterday morning. Mostly small fish but we did catch our first of the year nice, fat 14-inch bluefish."

Out of the South River, Jim from Marty's Bait & Tackle reports the only thing new he's been hearing this week is that more bluefish are being caught in decent numbers near Stone Rock. (I've heard a few have been caught as far north as Matapeake.)

"Never seen so much interest in crabbing. ... bait, traps, trot line, string, nets, spice, mallets, knives are flying outta the shop," he adds.

LJ from G-Eye Gigs tells me the trollers out of Chesapeake Beach are finding bluefish using Clark spoons. White perch are still dominating the bottom fishing action right now. "We are still waiting for the spot and croakers to make their annual run. Charter captains are making their runs north of the Beach to catch their limits of rockfish," he said. "Crabbing has been good and nice sized jimmies have been caught with traps and trot lines."

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Across the bay, light tackle and fly guide Capt. Kevin Josenhans tells me he's splitting his time between fishing the Choptank River and Tangier Sound.

"Both areas have had their moments. We're catching rockfish to 26 inches and specks to 17 inches. Many of the stripers are on the small side, say 12-14 inches," he says. "While this is a good sign for the future of the fishery we often leave them biting to (look) for larger members of their species. Speck catches are still in the single digits but I look for improvement as we approach late summer."

A bit south at the Maryland/Virginia line, Capt. Walt reports that his clients remain entertained with stripers, some speckled trout and the occasional houndfish, which have been "aggressively taking our offerings in the shallows of Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. Often it is sight-fishing, as we see the target before we cast to it. The water has been "gin clear" with a lot of healthy bay grasses growing. Beautiful, and a great fishing experience!"

(As a side note, back in the day every June for a handful of years I'd target houndfish on Virginia's Poquoson Flats. Tossing topwater — Heddons and MirroLures were two of my favorites, or a Tony No. 13 spoon, with fly trailers — to these scaled missiles was a hoot. The trick to getting them to hit on those flats was casting a foot or two off the grass beds, to the bare spots, and then crank like my fingers covered with fire ants, then pause, and repeat. Crazy stupid fun.)

When I spoke with Mike Henderson of Buzz's Marina, he told me he had just hung up the phone with one of his customers who caught a 39-inch cobia while trolling hoses for bluefish around the 72 buoy. "It happens every summer," Mike said. Otherwise, more blues are around (snappers mostly) as well as an uptick in hardheads, which are in shallow water on the western shore lumps north of Point Lookout to Point No Point. Flounders are few and far between, but scant reports may be due to the fact few anglers are actually chasing after them.

Over on the coast, in the run-up to the July 4th holiday, Delaware and Maryland fishermen enjoyed a sweet run of spanish mackerel. That's the word from venerable outdoors writer Eric Burnley, who told me Fenwick Shoals has been "covered up" with Spanish macks, something he and other veterans of that fishing scene haven't witnessed before. Not sure if the macks have moved on, though.

Sticking with ocean fishing, last weekend into early this week the yellowfin tuna fishing slowed down, but action picked back up inshore for bluefins. Fingers, Chickenbone and Massey's were mentioned as productive. Dale Dirks said he, along with Dave Dirks and Pete Abbott who celebrated his 80th birthday —Happy Birthday, Pete! — ran to the 26-Mile Hill on Dale's sport fisher "Heatwave." Their efforts were rewarded with a limit of bluefin tuna. Otherwise, billfish, wahoo and dolphinfish are also being caught.

Chesapeake "Summer" Slam Kicks Off

The guys from the online sport fishing forum technicalfisherman.com have a fun idea: a photo-based, derby style tournament they're calling "Chesapeake Summer Slam." It kicked off July 1 and runs until Sept. 17. Participating anglers can target five species — rockfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout and redfish. The person with the longest combined length of the five target species wins. You can fish the entire Chesapeake Bay (Maryland and Virginia) and its tributaries. They'll host an awards ceremony and party on Sept. 17.

Erik Zlokovitz, the DNR liaison to recreational fishermen, called the Slam an "exciting tournament" because of the diversity of species, and should "give the local Bay fishing-based businesses a nice economic boost this summer."

Photos and outdoors calendar listings to cdollar@cdollaroutdoors.com.

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Outdoors calendar

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Thru Sept. 17: Chesapeake Summer Slam. Five species, throughout the Bay. Sign up at technicalfisherman.com.

July 15-17: 12th annual O.C. Marlin Club Kid's Classic, 9659 Golf Course Road, Ocean City. Info at 410-213-1613 or ocmarlinclub.com.

July 16: WISH-A-FISH Foundation Day, Sandy Point, Annapolis at 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Contact Skip Zink at 410-913-9043 or email at md-wish-a-fish@comcast.net or annap@wish-a-fish.org.

July 21: Annual MSSA Northwest Chapter Perch Tournament. 7 a.m. at Podickery Point & Snake Reef, weigh-in at Sandy Point State Park at 12 p.m. Register at mssa.net/perch.

July 18: MSSA Broadneck/Magothy #10 Chapter Meeting, American Legion Post #175, 832 Manhattan Beach Rd, Severna Park at 7:30 p.m. Call 410-757-9070.

July 20: MSSA Annapolis #1 Chapter Fishing Trip, Rod N' Reel Docks, Chesapeake Beach at 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Info at mssaannapolis.com.

July 23: CCA-MD 3rd annual Baltimore Kids Catch. Canton Waterfront Park, 3001 Boston St, Baltimore at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Info at ccamd.org.

July 23: Pasadena Sportfishing Group Kid's Fishing Derby, Downs Park at 7 a.m.-12 p.m. Register at pasadenasportfishing.com

July 25: CAPCA Meeting, Annapolis Elks Lodge #622, 2517 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater. Open to the public meeting starts at 7:15 p.m. Info at capca.net.

July 29-31: 3rd annual O.C. Big Fish Classic, Talbot Street Peir. Info at 410-213-0325 or bigfishclassic.com.

Aug. 8-12: 2016 White Marlin Open, world's richest billfish tournament. Ocean City, MD. Register at whitemarlinopen.com.

Aug. 13: MSSA's KI Fishing club's Annual Youth Fishing Derby, Romancoke Pier, Rt. 8 south. 9 a.m.-11a.m. Awards and lunch at Kent Island American Legion #278 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

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