Josenhans FF ~ From Fly to Flounder

18 08 2011


Chuck Prahl and Chris Cianci with a brace of rock!

I don’t know exactly when the metamorphosis took place, but it seems as though I have gone from being a 70% fly guide to a 70% flounder guide. Just about everyone wants to get in on the fabulous flounder fishing that we have enjoyed this season – and I don’t blame them one bit. We are having one of the best years that I can remember for this tasty member of the flatfish family. Weather permitting, we have been experiencing limit to near-limit catches of big, beautiful summer flounder ranging from 18 to 26 inches. I also believe that the technique we are using to catch them has as much to do with the increased interest as the taste of the fillets. We have been drift-jigging this aggressive bottom feeder, much as you would a school of rockfish. Armed with light spinning or bait-casting rods, we attach a Li’l Jimy bucktail or a 3/4 to 1-1/2 oz.  jig head-Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet combo to the terminal end of the line. The flounder attack these jigs with a vengeance. There is no nibble-nibble as you often get when drifting the old standby minnow/squid combo. In large part, I believe this is because we are not attracting the smaller flounder. Most everything we bring in the boat is of legal size. It’s just plain fun fishing, and if you have yet to give it a try, you should put it on your to-do list.

On Saturday, August 13 I fished Pocomoke Sound with Jesse Maffuid and David Wilmoth. This was one of my cost-sharing trips, where I help individual anglers hook-up (no pun intended) with other anglers looking to split the cost of a trip. Similar to the walk-on trips utilized by other charters, this allows for a bit more notice for both captain and crew. It has been a very popular program for all involved. But I digress. The plan of action this day was – you guessed it – flounder. While the wind was against us – literally, in our face on the run to the flounder grounds – it was fishable once we arrived at our destination. As this was only a six-hour trip, and with a forty-minute run to the flounder spot, I was kind of under the gun to produce in a hurry. I had two very good fishermen in Jesse and David, so that made things a whole lot easier. We set up a drift, and after watching the track-back lines on my Lowrance HDS-7, I was able to begin a drift-pattern so we would cover the desired area. I have to say, what with a strong 10-15 K southerly wind and strong tide, the drifts were short in duration, but at least we were able to hold bottom. A few keeper flounder up to 21 inches were soon flopping in the cooler. After a while, the wind dropped out and we were able to get a longer drift going. Soon we had a few more flounder coming over the side, including a nice 26 inch fish of at least six-pounds. Before long, Jesse and David had their Virginia limit of four fish each, and I added one extra for the captain.  We ended the day with a total of nine flounder from 18 to 26 inches. Not too shabby for what began as a very breezy day.

Chris Cianci jigged up this nice flounder

Wednesday, August 17 brought us back to our usual summer routine of topwater rockfish early, with a flounder chaser. At 6:00 AM I met Chris Cianci and Chuck Prahl for a six-hour day on Tangier Sound. At 80 years young, Chuck is renowned for his fishing prowess on the Choptank River, but today he was playing an away game. The sound was like glass, ‘slick cam’ as the locals say, and the run to my favorite topwater spot was a breeze.  We made a quick drift, Chris with a popper and Chuck casting a four-inch shad, without even a look. Okay, I was too far out. I moved to make another drift, but this time I inched the boat in about 100 feet closer to the target zone. Same result. “The fish aren’t here,” I told Chris. We moved. Pulling up to my second choice I anchored-up due to the strong tide and limited structure. Almost before the plug hit the water Chris had a huge striper crash his popper and head south. Chris was slowly gaining line on a very nice rock when the hook pulled. As they say, “that’s fishing.” Barely a moment later, Chris had another blow-up and just afterwards Chuck had a strike and line began peeling from his bait-caster. A double hook-up. After a nice battle, both fish were brought to the boat for a quick photo-op and then promptly released. This scene was replayed several times over the next forty-five minutes, until the sun said that topwater fishing was over.

We then headed to the bay for the promised flounder jigging. Neither Chris or Chuck had fished for flounder this way before. It didn’t take long before both men were hooked up to a nice big flatty. The guys had one double where I netted Chris’ fish – a 23 inch beauty – only to run to the bow just in time to slip the net under Chuck’s 24 inch game-changer.  Nice double guys! We wound up with six flounder measuring 18 to 24 inches, with all of the action coming in a one hour spurt. Exciting fishing.


Josenhans FF ~ Rock & Flounder

26 07 2011

Bob Gray hooked up early

July has brought – for the most part – some very good shallow water, topwater fishing for rockfish, as well as limits of nice-size flounder. While the larger bluefish seem to have departed the lower portion of Tangier Sound, most of my anglers have been more than willing to spend the late-morning hours jigging Li’l Jimy bucktails and Berkley Gulp! tipped lead-heads for flounder that have averaged 18 to 23 inches.

Mike Schmidt with a fat topwater rockfish

On Monday, July 11 I spent the day fishing with Scott Evander and Hovik Taymoorian, D.O., two great guys who last fished with me during a spring flats excursion. Scott and Hovic are great fishing companions, because they have just a super time no matter what the day brings. On this day it brought the wind. Our shallow water striper spot was muddy, so we decided to make an attempt at flounder. As we traveled to the mid-bay flounder hole, the waves were an adventure, but we felt completely safe in my Jones Brothers Cape Fisherman 20. When we arrived, the wind and tide were both heading north, so, in order to keep our jigs on the bottom I had to point the bow of the JB into the wind and use just enough throttle to maintain our position over productive bottom – a ‘power-drift’, if you will. It really worked okay; that is, until a flounder was hooked and then someone had to grab the net. As all hands were busy enough beforehand, this added an additional level of excitement to the entire process. We took turns with the net, and never lost a fish, but this was ‘extreme flounder fishing’ to say the least. While the fishing was by no means hot, we did salvage a breezy day and the guys were able to take home a few nice flounder for the table.

Li’l Jimy fools another flounder


Guy Griffin fooled this rock with a Storm Chug Bug

Friday, July 15 brought Bob Gray and Mike Schmidt to Crisfield for their first try at Tangier Sound shallow water rockfish. The rock did not disappoint. For the better part of an hour, both Bob and Mike enjoyed explosive strikes from stripers up to 28 inches. Both left impressed with the topwater theatrics and drag-screaming runs of a good-sized striper caught in shallow water. The flounder bite was next. The jigging technique that I use was somewhat new to both Bob and Mike, and while the fish made us work a bit, we did manage a limit a piece for both anglers. In all, eleven legal-size flounder were boated; all beautiful fish ranging in size from 18 to 23 inches. Mike even added a twist that left me impressed. His son Mike has developed a fish attractant product called the Fish Bomb. Mike Sr. made a believer out of me as he was top rod for the day, all the while spraying a shot of the juice onto his bucktail jig before lowering it into the water. The flounder really seemed to love it!

Ron Perdue with a nice topwater rockfish

Wednesday, July 20 brought two local boys to my boat in Guy Griffin and Ron Perdue. You know, it hasn’t always been easy attracting native eastern shore folk to my business; since everyone down this way has access to a boat, plus they are all very good fishermen in their own right. Guy and Ron were no exception. The two really put on a show as they turned in one of the best topwater mornings of the  summer. Over twenty rockfish crashed, cart-wheeled and smacked their Storm and Stillwater poppers all over the shallows of lower Tangier Sound. Beautiful, fat stripers to 28 inches helped convince the guys that they need to add a surface popper to their rockfish arsenal. Guy and Ron didn’t miss a beat adapting to the new method. After the morning bite slowed, both were anxious to get at the flounder. Fishing two areas that have been hot of late, Guy and Ron managed a limit a piece of thick-bodied flounder to 22 inches, and they boated nine total over 18 inches. Some nice fillets for the table were their reward for carefully releasing every single rockfish to fight another day.

Ron showing off the beautiful coloration of a Chesapeake flounder


Guy with a hefty flounder of his own

Josenhans FF ~ Topwater Hanging On

13 07 2011

Tyler with his 22" flounder

On Tuesday, July 5 I met Mel(Skip) Bertrand and his grandson Tyler Wheeler at the Somers Cove Marina boat ramp for a six-hour trip for some rockfish and flounder. Conditions for an early topwater bite were good and I was hoping the fish would put on a show, since Skip and Tyler don’t often fish for rock this way. The first fish came out of nowhere and exploded on Skip’s Storm Chug Bug about halfway back to the boat. When a 26-inch striper hit’s a popper in four-feet of water much of the fight is on top, and this fish didn’t stray from the norm. After a game fight Skip landed and promptly released the fat, healthy rockfish. It wasn’t long before an explosion of water caused Tyler’s popper to disappear and Tyler was hanging on for dear life with his G. Loomis IMX rod bent double. Tyler did a super job of keeping the mid-twenties fish out of some nearby structure and boated the striper in short order. Game on! For about thirty minutes blow-ups were coming on a regular basis and then it just quit! 

Though short-lived, the explosive strikes and tough battles more than justified the early wake-up call. Now it was flounder time. I eased the Jones Brothers into position for our first drift and briefly explained the jigging technique to Skip and Tyler. It wasn’t long before the first rod was doubled-over with a heavy fish. Using Li’l Jimy bucktails by Specialized Baits, or simply a plain 3/4 oz. jig-head with a Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet we boated several nice flounder to 22-inches before the action shut down. While we didn’t get our limit this day, it was fun watching Skip and Tyler perfect a new (for them) flounder technique that they can try elsewhere.

Justin with a nice topwater rock

Saturday, July 9 was practically an encore performance of Tuesday’s trip. Only this day it was Justin Matoska and Colin Maxfield who were at the working end of the G. Loomis spinning rods. The rest of the cast was the same. Rockfish from 22″ to 27″ crashed the topwater offerings of Justin and Colin for the better part of an hour until the action subsided. Once again, Storm Rattlin’ Saltwater Chug Bugs were the hot popper. A couple of things that I like about the Chug Bug is they pop easily (and throw a lot of spray in the process), cast like a bullet, and the Perma steel hooks are super-sharp and resist rust. After the topwater bite died, Justin and Colin broke-out the fly outfits and began to cast chartreuse and white Clouser Minnows over some shallow structure. Both are fairly new to saltwater fly fishing but after a few tips Justin and Colin were easily reaching the fifty foot range with their casts.

Colin with a hog on a Storm Chug Bug

The wind was a definite liability this day and the guys did well casting the sink-tips into a stiff 15 K breeze. While the stripers didn’t cooperate, Colin managed his very first saltwater fish on fly, a colorful speckled trout! When the wind let-up enough to drift for flounder we took a short run and fell in line with several other boats already on site. While the catching was less than stellar, Justin and Colin did manage two keepers of 18 and 21 inches. All-in-all, another pleasant day on the bay with, I believe, two new converts to the world of saltwater fly fishing. Keep at it guys!

Colin showing off his first speck


Justin jigged up a nice flounder

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 ~ 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.