Josenhans FF ~ Great Topwater Rockfish

30 06 2011

Dave with his 32 inch topwater rockfish

I would have been satisfied with the terrific topwater action we had with rockfish on the morning of Saturday, June 18, but to round out the day with a nice catch of good-eating flounder, and then some hard-fighting blues (all squeezed into a six-hour trip) well, it was a great day. I was fishing with Tom Hylden, John Camp and Dave Lonnquest on the lower portion of Tangier Sound on a morning to remember. The only blemish on the day was when the guide (yours truly) failed to tie on a heavy enough leader for John which caused him to cut-off a very nice striper. Boy I wish I had a mulligan on that one. Sorry John! Still, a great day was had by all.

Tom started the day off right!

We started off the morning with a very early start at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield. After about a 30 minute ride to the fishing grounds the guys began to cast Storm Chug Bugs and Stillwater Smack-it! poppers along a favorite stretch of shoreline. The G Loomis IMX spinning rods were a perfect match for these larger poppers. Almost immediately the water exploded on a popper that Tom had cast. Tom boated a nice rockfish and the race was on. Poppers were flying here and there and everyone got into the act. Some very big stripers were in the mix, with the biggest, caught by Dave, stretching the tape to 32 inches and twelve pounds. That fish hit Dave’s popper going away and put on a drag-screaming, topwater display that would have done a member of the tuna family proud! Nice catch Dave.

Dave showing off a colorful flounder

After the rockfish bite slowed, we decided to try our luck with flounder. The day before had been a bonanza for the big flatties, so I was chomping at the bit to give it another try. Once again the flounder did not disappoint. Dave had the hot hand while Tom did his best to keep up the pressure. The guys took home some beautiful flounder for a delicious evening meal. The hot lure this day was a Li’l Jimy bucktail with a Berkley Gulp! chaser.  We had an hour or so remaining in our morning so I suggested we try for a few blues. Not to be left out of the party, the blues cooperated and we ended the day with some great light tackle action on these hard-fighting speedsters.  Fine fishing and great company; it was a good day to be a guide.


John putting his G.Loomis to the test


Josenhans FF ~ Li’l Jimy and Big Flounder!

30 06 2011

On Friday, June 17  I fished with George Lenard of Specialized Baits fame and friend Dave Gedra.  George’s hand-tied Li’l Jimy is one of the most beautiful – and effective – bucktail jigs on the market. The Li’l Jimy is also a very versatile lure, as was evident by today’s trip. Rockfish, big flounder and jumbo croaker all succumbed to the tantalizing action of the Li’l Jimy. Flounder to 25-1/2 inches (six-pounds) and croaker to 17 inches were the highlight of the day. Fishing in Virginia waters we managed limits of big flounder all around. The flavor of the day was what George refered to as his Finger Mullet pattern  in gray/white, with the 3/4 ounce weight being the top producer when jigged just off the bottom. Instead of running-on at the keyboard, I’ll let these photos do the talking.

George Lenard is on to something with the Li'l Jimy

Dave Gedra had the Li'l Jimy talking to 'em!

Capt. and Dave with a 25-1/2" flounder and 17" croaker

George made a believer out of me



Josenhans FF ~ Speckled Trout

24 06 2011

Eric's speck

June 14, 15 and 16 brought a nice change of pace, in that we boated a few nice speckled trout, a rare catch of late. Granted, we have not been searching too hard for specks – what with the rock, flounder and bluefish action to keep us busy – but the windy conditions of these three days forced our hand. On Tuesday, Luther Carter, Albert Dulin and Eric Krouse met me at Somers Cove, along with a very stiff NW breeze. After some debate, we decided to give fishing a try along a protected shoreline of the Big Annemessex river. This was to be a pay-as-you-go day, and I can tell you that the meter didn’t run very long. After just two hours we  had had enough of the constant bombardment of the 25 knot winds and called it a day. But not before Eric was able to pull a colorful speck out of a semi-protected grassbed. Thanks for keeping the skunk out of the boat Eric.

Paul E. with a fat rock

I had an evening trip on Wednesday with Ray Leety, Paul Sirochman, Dave Stover and Paul Eichelberger. Ray brought his boat along so we weren’t crowded and together we made the long, bumpy (wind again) trip to lower Tangier Sound. The water was fairly clear in the lee of an island and the wind died a bit as the evening progressed. The guys were able to catch a few rockfish on poppers as the waters calmed and the sun set much too fast to the west. Ray had a pair of rock at 20 and 23 inches that exploded on his popper and gave him a good fight. Paul E. and Dave were fishing with me, and together they landed maybe a dozen fat stripers while casting four-inch pearl shads. It was a nice, pleasant four-hour trip and I enjoyed the company of four very good fishermen.

Ray and Paul S. with Ray's five pound speck

The same group met me bright and early on Thursday for a half day morning outing. This time Ray and Paul S. rode with me. As we rounded the “five-legger” (buoy at mouth of Little Annemessex) I had every intention of beginning our day where we ended it the previous evening. A couple of shots of salty spray to the face from a strong southerly breeze quickly erased those thoughts from my head. I opted for the west side of Smith Island where I believed that I could find some clear water. Casting a Storm Wildeye Shad to some rocky structure quickly netted Ray a beautiful, fat, five-pound speckled trout. I don’t know about Ray but that one fish made my day.

Paul's speck hit a popper

 Between both boats we were only able to scratch up a few smallish rock, as the wind was really making things miserable. We bit the bullet and pounded our way back across the sound to the Big Annemessex river. We found some pretty grass flats in the lee of some islands and Ray managed a small rock but little else. As we were heading towards Paul E. and Dave in the other boat I saw a large splash and Paul with his rod bent double. My first thought was that he had snagged a large cow nose ray, but as we got closer we witnessed Paul posing for the camera holding a speck that was almost a carbon copy of Ray’s. The explosion of water I observed was the speck crashing a popper on Paul’s first cast. It was a fitting way to end the morning, and a shake of the fist to the ever-present wind.

Josenhans FF ~ Flounder Have Arrived!

20 06 2011

Matt with the tip of the iceberg

Boy am I behind with the fishing reports! I have been on the water every day, with the exception of Sundays, and I just haven’t gotten around to my blogging duties. Sorry about that!! The big news on the fishing front of late has been the arrival of good numbers of BIG flounder. Jigging Berkley Gulp! and Li’l Jimy bucktails from Specialized Baits in 1/2 to 3/4 ounce  has produced limit catches for those willing to take a break from the rockfish-bluefish scene. More on that in a minute. Here is a rundown on some of the fishing we have enjoyed of late.

Wednesday, June 8 – Barry Portnoy, Doug D. and Matt Roach gave it their all after a breezy morning that roiled the water just enough to slow the bite for the day. Where we had been catching rock and blues with abandon, we settled for two here and three there at each spot that we tried. The bite was even off around some deepwater structure that I have been fishing, and while the rock were showing well on the finder, they just weren’t in a feeding mood. Matt finally decided to try the fly rod with a smaller bait and that did get the interest of a few more schoolie stripers. Matt also hit on something that he probably didn’t even realize at the time, in that he discovered the tip of the iceberg to a flounder bonanza. Matt fooled three big flounder with a four-inch pearl shad and it took until the next day for me to realize that he had hit on something special. I owe you one Matt! All-in-all a fun day on the water with three good friends!

Aaron with his 23 inch flounder

Thursday, June 9 – An early start-time for a chance at some big stripers paid off for Bernie Kemp and son Aaron. Stillwater Smack-it! poppers did the trick with several nice rockfish and Aaron landed a beauty at 31 inches and eleven pounds. After this bite slowed we tried the blues again with only a limited amount of success. After a bit, I decided to test Matt’s flounder discovery of the day before with a theory I had and boy did it pay off. Jigging Chartreuse Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet baits on 1/2 ounce jig-heads, Bernie and Aaron managed a nice limit of flounder from 18 to 23 inches. The flounder were aggressive and inhaled the baits like they were flounder-candy. Much to my chagrin – and Bernie’s amusement – I quickly discovered that shallow rubber nets and big flounder are not a good mix. See, flounder don’t stop swimming once they’re in the net, and I felt like I was landing these big flatties with a trampoline. I had flounder flying all over the place. But I digress.. Anyway, I think I might be on to something here..

Aaron's 31 inch shallow-water striper on a popper

Paul with average-sized flounder

Friday, June 10 – Paul Anderson, son Matt and Eric Green met me bright and early at Somers Cove ramp and the first thing Paul handed me were several packs of Berkley Gulp! baits. He said they were from Bernie and that we would be needing them. I crossed my fingers and hoped he was right. First things first, so we proceeded to the striper grounds for some early topwater action. The rock were active and the guys managed to land a couple of 24 inch beauties after some savage strikes. After the topwater bite slowed we were off to the bluefish grounds once again. The blues cooperated better than they had in days and we enjoyed some great light tackle action with the two to three-pound fish before turning our thoughts to flounder. I informed the guys the tide was about right, so we pulled in our lines and headed to the flounder grounds. For the next three hours Paul, Matt and Eric enjoyed our best day to date with some truly unbelievable flounder fishing. The guys took home their limit of big, fat flounder ranging in size from 18 to 22 inches. While the day was already a success with the rock and blue action, the flounder simply added icing to the cake. All were in agreement that they had never before witnessed flounder fishing of this quality on the Chesapeake Bay.

Eric showing off the days catch

Tom with his early morning striper

Saturday, June 11 – Tom Hylden and Shelley Davis were met with tough conditions caused by the seemingly ever-present winds. Tom managed a heart-stopping strike on a popper, and after a game fight landed a fat 24 inch rockfish. Another explosive strike near the boat and that was it with topwater for the day. A slack tide and slightly turbid water made the morning fishing conditions less than ideal but Tom and Shelley both hung in there and gave it a brave effort. Their persistence paid off, and after the tide changed we ended the day with a flurry and perhaps a morning total of twenty stripers and blues. A nice mid-day lunch of fried soft crabs on Tangier Island capped off another beautiful summer morning on Tangier Sound.

Josenhans FF ~ Fun with Bluefish

15 06 2011

Kyle with one of his many blues

Bluefish continue to bail me out when the mid-day striper bite slows, but I’m not complaining. I’ll take a 20 inch blue anytime over a 20 inch rockfish. The guys and gals are having a great time with this hard-fighting summer gamefish.

Saturday, June 4 – Today I enjoyed the company of Bert Massengale, his 13-year-old son Kyle and Bert’s mother Joann. It was Bert’s first trip with me, and while talking on the way to the fishing grounds I had mentioned to him that it is always good to start and end the day on a high note. Well, as luck would have it.. Pulling up to the first spot we caught some nice stripers right off the bat. It quickly became apparent that this was to be Kyle’s day. A number of nice rockfish were brought boatside with Kyle doing much of the catching. Bert got in on the action as well, and for an hour or so we had rock to 24 inches coming in the boat. Things cooled off just as fast as they started, and for a couple of hours it was slow fishing. I decided to make a run across the sound to a favorite bluefish hangout and the fish didn’t disappoint. For the remainder of the day, the entire Massengale family enjoyed some fantastic light tackle action with blues averaging 18 to 20 inches. “My new favorite fish” said Bert, as none of the family had ever before caught a blue. The feather-light G.Loomis Pro-Green rods were a perfect match for the hard-fighting blues. What a great way to break-in the family on Tangier Sound fishing.

Kyle was top dog with the stripers

Joann Massengale with a nice bluefish

Bert's "new favorite fish"

Storm Rattlin' Chug Bug

Monday, June 6 – Norm Bayer, Bob Hedrick and Joe Lundin joined me today for a six-hour trip on the lower portion of Tangier Sound. We had “slick cam” conditions, as the locals say, so we were able to quickly make the long trip from Crisfield to the lower end of Tangier Sound. We were hoping for some big rock on poppers at first light. It started off with a bang as two 26 inch rock inhaled our offerings and put up a great fight in the shallow water. Storm Rattlin’ Chug Bugs were the ticket this morning. The Rattlin’ Chug Bug is a great popper for this type of fishing as it pops and splashes effortlessly, rarely tangles, and the best part is the hooks don’t rust. The stripers love ’em! Unfortunately, with the sun rising fast to the east the bite suddenly turned off. Searching here and there we picked up another small striper, or three, but unlike the weather the action was anything but hot. Thinking of Saturday, I again traveled across the sound to the bluefish hole and, like Saturday, the blues were ready and waiting. In almost a carbon copy of the previous trip we had three hours of non-stop action with the blues. Norm’s Rapala Trigger X was like candy to the blues, and surprisingly long-lasting considering the blues razor-sharp teeth. No tail bite-offs with the Trigger X. This is Rapala’s answer to the Berkley Gulp! and I was impressed. Bob was doing his best to keep up with the fly rod and the blues were more than willing to oblige. Another day saved by the bluefish.

Tuesday, June 7 – Joe DeMeo and friends Joe and Chen fished with me on the Little Choptank out of Madison hoping for a mixed bag of croaker and rockfish. With a good supply of fresh peeler crab we headed to some hard bottom to try to put some croaker in the box. To make a long story short, it was not meant to be. A couple of croaker and the same number of large cow nose rays were all we had to show for our efforts. The evening shallow water striper bite wasn’t much better. The shallows were murky at best, due in part to a strong southerly breeze that had kicked up, and I think we are still a bit early for the good topwater rockfish bite that we experienced last summer. We’ll get ’em next time guys, thanks for the gallant effort!

JFF ~ Topwater Stripers and Blues – Part 2

3 06 2011

Kathi Wilmoth with a skinny-water rock

The other day, Dave and Kathi Wilmoth met me early at Somers Cove for the 30 minute boat ride to one of my favorite topwater holes. Upon arrival, we found very clear water but no current movement. In fact, it was dead low tide. Casting Stillwater poppers, Kathi was the first to connect with a hard strike that occurred right in front of her. I believe it was her first rockfish on a surface lure. A few minutes later another explosion and Kathi had her first “keeper” on a popper as we saved that one for the pan. Dave was casting the larger Stillwater without a strike so I had him switch-over to the Smack-it Jr like Kathi was using.  The sun was fast getting bright and hot, so after a brief lull I asked Kathi to switch to a shad tail. Almost immediately she was hooked into something taking drag. After a brief but game effort a 22 inch striper came over the side. Nice fish Kathi! Dave switched to a shad and he started to get in on the action as well. Not bad considering we were sitting in three feet of slack water (One of these mornings the conditions are going to be perfect and this shallow bite is going to be off the charts!)

Brown Pelican nesting ground

From where we sat I could see that the bay was practically flat calm. We headed out to try for some blues. For an hour they did not disappoint. Dave caught several 18 to 20 inch hard fighting blues, mixed in with the occasional rockfish. I landed a very big croaker while prospecting for bottom dwellers. Fish were stacked up on the fish finder, and while we were having some decent action, I really thought we could have been doing a lot better. I guess fish don’t constantly eat like I do. Anyway, it was a good morning, Dave and Kathi both caught some nice fish and we finished off the day with a nice lunch at Tangier Island, with a side trip to a Brown Pelican nesting ground. While snapping pictures of the pelicans it would have been easy to imagine that we were fishing in Florida.

JFF ~ Topwater Stripers and Blues – Part 1

3 06 2011

The early morning striper top water bite is just beginning to take-off, and if conditions are favorable the action can be hot & heavy during periods of low-light. Sunrise is currently around 5:40 a.m. so you need to get up pretty early for the best action, and the bigger fish. After the surface bite slows we have been traveling to the main bay for some pretty good bluefish action on light spinning and fly rods. The blues have been averaging 18 to 22 inches and are a blast on this light tackle. Speckled trout are reportedly increasing in numbers, but we have opted for the hard-fighting blues, of late. Here is a brief rundown of some recent trips.

Last Monday, Tom Decker and Tushar Irani joined me for a morning topwater excursion on the Little Choptank River out of Madison. The water condition was not the best due to a strong southerly breeze and the ever-present cow nose rays. Not three casts into the day and Tushar hooked and landed a nice 24 inch rockfish on a Stillwater  popper. Another hour of battling the wind produced little so we retreated into the river proper where we worked the points and rips to no avail. If the tide had been more favorable I think we would have had cleaner water and different results – wind or no wind. Once the dirty water clears this area should become a hotspot for topwater rockfish.

On Wednesday morning, Jack McKenna met me at Somers Cove in Crisfield with fly rod in hand. It was to be all fly fishing today and I was hoping to get Jack into some of the bluefish that we have been catching out on the lumps of the main bay. The blues did not disappoint.  After a slow morning with rock in the shallows (full of May worms) we made the trek to the bay and immediately found the blues schooled-up and hungry. For the next two hours Jack caught blue after blue from 18 to 20 inches on a 7 wt. At one point Jack handed me the rod and said “catch a few, I’m taking a break!” There’s no quit in these hard-fighting gamefish. Our day ended with the blues biting – always a good sign as a guide – and Jack had a tired and happy expression that I won’t soon forget.

Saturday, it was back to the Little Choptank where, once again, we were met with a breeze and cloudy water. I believe we still have some remnants of the spring rains clinging to this area, and the unsettled weather of late hasn’t helped things. Mike Schenking and his friend John gave it their all at a few favorite topwater spots with just one blow-up to show for their efforts. It was a very nice fish that in short order cut John off on a barnacle-encrusted stump. John did everything right, but where we were fishing the striper had a definite home field advantage. After a brief jaunt to the False Channel in an attempt to jig up a few stripers, the wind let us know this was a bad idea and we returned to the shallows of the Little C. We plugged along for the remainder of the day casting soft plastics to favorite stretches of shoreline while picking up the occasional small striper. Nice to see the smaller fish are somewhat plentiful after the reported poor spawns of the previous three years. On another bright note, John received a text from a buddy that the morning crabbing was very good. There are some very nice fish in this area and I’m going to keep at it until everything clicks. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.