Josenhans FF ~ May 16 – Week in Review

26 05 2011

Maurice with a nice rock

I’ve been fishing a lot lately and once again I apologize for the tardiness of these reports. For the most part fishing has been very good. On a couple of days the wind and dirty water (partly from cow nose rays) has forced us to do a little searching, but we usually found something to catch. Last Monday and Tuesday I had the pleasure of fishing with good friends Maurice Klein and Gene Jones. Maurice was one of my very first clients as I was just beginning my guide business over 18 years ago, and he has fished with me every year since! Thanks for the continued support Maurice.

Gene not to be outdone

Monday we had a great day with stripers casting shad tails on 3/8 oz. jig heads. The fish were holding tight to the marsh bank as we had extreme high tides caused by the full moon. The incoming tide was pushing the bait (silversides) up tight to the bank and the stripers followed. All told the guys probably landed 40-50 rockfish in the 18 to 24 inch range. Tuesday was a bit tougher day, as very strong SE winds kept us on the eastern side of Tangier Sound. We found clean water around Janes Island and managed to have a slow but steady pick of rock in the 16 to 21 inch range. Maurice boated the first speckled trout of the year on a chartreuse shad. We found the clear water in a sheltered grass bed on the west side of Janes Island.

Wednesday I was joined by Pete Knox, Jim Smith and Walter Barczak for a six-hour trip doing some deep water jigging in the mid-bay area. Drifting over school after school of stripers we landed perhaps forty nice rock in the 14 to 27 inch range. Pete took top honors with a fat 8-1/2 pound beauty. All fish were caught drifting 5-inch Bass Assassins on 3/4 ounce heads in 20-30 foot of water. The water of the mid-bay still has a slight brown tint to it from the floodwaters up north. I sure hope this dirty cloud is flushed out soon.

Walter with a fat rock under ominous skies

Jim getting in on the action

Pete with his "2nd" biggest for the day

Ralph with a "corn fed" striper

Thursday was one of those days that you generally read about in a saltwater fishing magazine. My client for the day, Ralph Bones, could do no wrong. We started off the morning casting Stillwater Smack-it poppers to rock up to 24 inches. The fish aggressively attacked the popper as it slurped, rattled and gurgled over barely four feet of water. This shallow water popper fishing is just beginning to heat up, and should reach its peak in mid-July. Last season we enjoyed a great topwater bite throughout the summer months. Call or email if you would like to get in on some of this exciting action. After the shallow water bite slowed we decided to try some structure out in the main bay. As I eased the Jones Brothers up to my mark the fish finder came alive with fish-arches of all sizes and shapes. For the next four hours, Ralph caught rock and blues on fly and spin tackle. The bluefish averaged 18 to 20 inches and put up a hard battle on the light tackle. A special treat for Ralph was watching rockfish smacking a Bob’s Banger fly rod popper  all over the calm waters of the bay. Ralph estimated that he had probably boated nearly 100 fish, as he was constantly hooked-up. What a day!

Ralph had a blast with the fly rod

Kirk's fly rod reward

On Friday, I made the mistake of breaking a cardinal rule of guiding – never tell today’s client about the truly fantastic day you had yesterday.  Kirk Grassett and Nick DelleDonne (owner of The Evening Rise ) met me at the ramp in Crisfield just as the sun began to show itself over the horizon. After a bumpy 40 minute boat-ride, I pulled up to the site of the previous day’s early popper bite. By this time, I had already fueled Kirk and Nick’s expectations with visions of yesterday’s non-stop action. You guessed it, not so much as a swirl after our poppers. Nada! Nothing! We tried switching to sub-surface flies. Nick immediately had a nice fish grab his fly as it dangled over the side of the boat. Just as fast, the fly was cut-off on some structure. That seems to be the ticket, I thought. Maybe an hour and one fish later I discovered the ticket had expired. We moved to several nearby spots and both Kirk and Nick slowly began to pick up a nice rock here and there. The strikes were coming slowly so I opted for the deep-water structure where it all happened the day before. With a strong north wind and even stronger ebbing tide, the site of the previous days phenomenal action proved simply too difficult to fish. Not to mention that there was not a fish showing on the finder. Nick had a nice hit  on a fly popper and that was it. We returned to a flood-tide spot that I like and finished off the day catching stripers in the 17 to 21 inch range. Enough to keep it interesting and the guys had a great time on a beautiful day on the water.

Debra's first light tackle striper

Saturday proved to be a tough bite as well, with breezy conditions, cow nose rays and stained water. Fishing with me were fellow eastern shore residents Jim and Debra Drayton. After a quick fly casting session for Debra – who picked up the idiosyncracies of casting a sink-tip line remarkably fast – we headed to the lee of Tangier Island. Finding some relatively clean water behind the island Debra caught her very first light tackle rockfish. Great job Debra! Jim added to the creel and for the remainder of the day we bounced around from spot-to-spot catching a striper here and there. The day was gorgeous, Tangier Island provided a beautiful back-drop and I have rarely seen two people enjoy a day of fishing more that Jim and Debra.  They even managed to take home two 21 inch rock for the evening meal. I really enjoyed your company guys and hope to do it again soon!

Jim with a nice rock on a bright cloudless day


Tangier Shallow Water Heating Up!

15 05 2011

Mike Robertson's 29 inch striper on topwater

Tangier Sound shallow water rockfishing is heating up with catches of 50 fish or more casting poppers and shads around the marsh banks of the islands. Yesterday we had rock to 29 inches (big fish was on a Stillwater popper) while fishing the skinny water around Smith Island. The water down here is clean and clear, without that brown stain of the upper bay. No specks yet for me, but we should have some moving in very soon. Big red drum are still being caught by those fishing the late evening tides. Pictured below are Mike Robertson and Will Farneth with a sample of the days catch. Mike released his 29 inch fish even though we were in a legal trophy area.

Will Farneth with a nice shallow water rockfish


Josenhans FF ~ No Place Like Home

11 05 2011

Tom with Pocomoke River bass

Nassawango Creek spadderdock

Boy, is it great to be back fishing on the lower shore! Even though the winds have kept me off Tangier Sound on several occasions, I have been fishing a lot, and for a variety of species. Last Thursday and Friday I enjoyed the company of college buddy Tom Decker and friend Brian Eyler. The plan was to fish out of Crisfield at least one of the two days but 25 – 30 mph winds nixed that idea. On Thursday we decided the Pocomoke might be a more relaxing venue. We put in at Byrd Park in Snow Hill and motored slowly downriver to some likely crappie holes. We caught a couple at the first spot but it wasn’t fast and furious by any stretch of the imagination. Down to Nassawango Creek we went. After some moving around and experimenting we started to get the crappie coming aboard. Every once in a while a bass or pickerel would surprise us and even white perch and bluegill liked our crappie jig offerings. Quite the variety. The 30 mph winds were present, but it was extremely fishable, and just a pleasant day on the water. All told, I guess we caught maybe thirty fish and six different species. 

Brian and Tom having fun with perch

On Friday, we decided to try something different as the winds were still upwards of 20-25  mph. We put in at Webster’s Cove in Mt. Vernon and headed to a nearby creek looking for white perch. The guys wanted to take a few home to eat. As the tide ebbed strong we began to catch white perch with the occasional rockfish (all rock were released unharmed). Since peeler crab seemed to be out-producing bloodworm we baited up with crab all-around, and as the tide slackened the perch got bigger. In three hours of fishing the guys landed maybe forty perch, with the biggest stretching the tape to 12 1/2 inches, and they had several more right at twelve.

Shelley Davis with schoolie rockfish

Tom Hylden with a nice 22 inch rock

Saturday dawned bright and beautiful in Crisfield, with just enough of a westerly breeze to make the ride across Tangier Sound a tad bumpy. Fishing with Tom Hylden and Shelley Davis we decided to make the trek to the lee side of a string of barrier islands below Smith Island. Pulling up quietly to a long stretch of beach the water was flat calm. The first cast produced a feisty 17 inch striper for Shelley, along with a carbon copy on the second cast. Before long both Tom and Shelly had several rockfish from 17 to 20 inches to their credit. As the tide and action slowed, we moved around to several locations and caught fish at just about every spot. Tom had the largest of the day, a fat 22 incher that hit right near the boat and gave him a heck of a battle. Tangier Island was sitting pretty nearby and the breeze even let up for the ride home. Just a fabulously beautiful day on the sound with two great fishing companions.

Eric's 32 inch striper on a popper

After enjoying a day off with the family on Sunday, I met Matt Roach and friends Jason and Eric at the Madison ramp on the Little Choptank river bright and early Monday morning. We started off working some shallow structure along the bay front with Stillwater Smack-it! poppers, hoping for a trophy rockfish that would be heading out of the bay after the spawn. It wasn’t long before Eric let out a yell as he was hooked up to something pulling drag big-time. After several determined runs we finally caught a glimpse of the first fish of the day, a beautiful 32 inch striper. This turned out to be the biggest fish of the day, as once again the wind played a factor, and this day chased us up into the Little Choptank for some catch and release fishing. School stripers to 21 inches kept the guys happy while casting under the protected banks of the river.

Jason's rock with Matt hooked up!

Matt's 21 inch rock

Tuesday was a travel day with Doug Andrews and Bernie Kemp. We were on a mission to catch some of the trophy red drum that have been prowling the flats off Fisherman’s Island down near the CBBT in Virginia. We met in Pocomoke and drove down together in my Ford truck, and I enjoyed the company as we planned out strategy. After stopping at Chris’ Bait and Tackle for a few last minutes odds & ends, we put in at Wise Point and readied the rods for some sight-fishing. Not a sure thing by any means, but it’s best to be prepared. After cruising the flats between Fisherman’s and Smith Island for perhaps an hour, we decided to anchor-up along a likely looking sand bar and fish peeler and hard crab baits for the drum. After Bernie caught a couple very large rays, Doug and I had two run-offs that we determined were probably drum due to the speed with which the line was leaving the reel. On both occasions, before we could get a hook-set the fish was gone. To make a long story short, the remainder of the day was spent catching skate, monster rays and one feisty dogfish at several locations on the flats. If you can call it a bright spot, we felt right at home with the locals as we didn’t see a drum boated during the entire day. This spring run of drum can be frustrating as you can experience many hours of sheer boredom interrupted by an hour or so of sheer pandemonium. So far this season, I’ve yet to get to the pandemonium part. Oh well, it was a beautiful day in a beautiful place with two great friends. Thanks guys! We’ll get ’em next time..

Inside the breakers at Fisherman's Island

The shallow water, striper topwater action is just heating up and will peak during June and July. Last year we had terrific action and explosive strikes from rockfish during the low-light  periods of dawn and dusk. If you want to experience one of the greatest thrills in all of striper fishing try shallow water topwater. A half-day morning or evening trip is perfect for some fast-paced excitement with this great gamefish. Both Crisfield and the Little Choptank produced rock to 34 inches last year.

Josenhans FF ~ Tough Luck with Drum

8 05 2011

Evening view from Fox Island

Many of you have been asking about my search for red drum, so here goes.. I have tried to run a trip or two for red drum of late but the weather (wind) doesn’t want to cooperate. We have been fishing the Fox Island bar out of Crisfield in the evenings using peeler crab as bait, with little success. During the past week or so, when conditions have been right, some big reds have been caught at both Fox and Smith Islands. These spring-run drum average 30 to 40 pounds and are worth the wait, but they can be few and far between. In between the drum excursions, we have cast poppers, such as the Stillwater Smack-it! and Storm Chug Bug for rockfish in the shallows of Fox Island. Stripers averaging 18 to 23 inches have provided some explosive surface action during low-light periods. This topwater bite should only get better as more post spawn fish leave the rivers. This past week, I’ve had a full schedule of trips in a variety of places and I’ll have a full report in a day or so. Stay tuned…