September – Anglers Paradise!
September is like an early Christmas present for fishermen. A diverse fishery presents anglers with a variety of methods to land some of the Northern Neck’s finest seafood.
The cooler temperatures will promote heavy feeding as fish prepare for a fall exit out of the creeks and rivers.
As a seasoned charter captain, I can honestly say that this is my favorite month of the year to fish. The mild weather coupled with a variety of fish, is sure to please even the most fastidious angler. This month, I carry anglers on my large boat in the Chesapeake Bay as well as on small boat inshore charters. Both venues provide great action, but during this transitional period, one method touches my heart the most.
Shallow water, or “skinny” water as we call it locally, presents opportunities that are not available in the deep water of the Chesapeake Bay. This inshore fishery offers Speckled Trout, Puppy Drum, Striped bass, Perch, Whiting, Bluefish and more on light tackle.
What makes the shallow water fishing so special is that it’s commonly found in protected areas, well suited for small boats, kayaks and even SUP’s. Fishing interest has swelled among naturalists and fitness enthusiasts who choose to explore nature and catch a fresh dinner at the same time. We usually see a surge in kayak and small boat traffic on the boat ramp at Ingram Bay Marina this month. With close proximity to Dameron’s Marsh as well as several creek inlets, I have found great success with light tackle while casting over grass beds and near shore structure.
SPECKLED TROUT fishing is the most popular target in skinny water. Action was good in late August and should pick up in September. Grassy flats and oyster beds are great places to fish for these trout. Anglers also catch them in feeder creeks of the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers.
Casting artificial baits has become the norm rather than the exception when targeting these tasty fish. Mirrolures, surface poppers and jig heads rigged with twister or paddle tails are among the many baits used to entice shallow water action. Other methods include fly fishing with clouser minnows. In my opinion, Fly fishing most rewarding form of angling and brings one closest to the pure art of fishing. Tying, presenting and catching a fish on a homemade fly is the ultimate experience.
Puppy Drum and Striped Bass feed heavily on minnows and peeler crabs during September. This occurs along the shorelines and bar areas where access is limited to shallow draft vessels. As we approach months end, this fishery matures nicely with 18-26 inch fish available for light tackle action.
Anglers are also finding success on bluefish while while fly fishing. The choice of flies usually fall within a colorful variety of clousers and deceivers with chartreuse and white topping the list.
In the Bay and Rivers
During this transitional period between summer and fall, there are a few top water species that can be found in the big water of the bay and the mouths of major rivers. Among fish drawing the most attention, Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish and Red Drum are most popular.
Anglers should find plenty of trolling action along the channel edges throughout the region. Trolling produces good results with several different lures. The only difference is varying speeds for each species. Clark and Drone spoons(#0 and #1) are the baits that closest resemble the shiners that are the main menu for all three species this month.
An average trolling speed of 5-6 knots will entice some bites of each species, yet will likely land a majority of bluefish in your coolers. A slightly faster speed will entice more mackerel and a slower moving bait will attract more drum. When it is evident that larger drum are present, I step up my tackle to bigger spoons and heavier leaders.
I have found that #1 planers are the best means of taking the lures to the right depths of 12-15 feet. As the fall progresses, it seems that the fish school a bit deeper in the water table. In that case, using a #2 planer will carry lures nearly 20 feet below the surface. If planers are not part of your tackle repertoire, you may use 6-12 oz in-line sinkers.
This trio of fish will continue to school in the lower Potomac and southern Maryland waters to the mouth of the Rappahannock. They will come in waves as they continue to move southward in migration. Many fish follow the western side of the bay but an area that should not be discounted is the eastern channel edges from Smith Point to the Cut Channel.
BLUEFISH seem to be consistent on both sides of the bay with the larger samples found on the western flats and locations holding structure. They can be caught by trolling or chumming. Trolling is good in many of the same locations as mentioned for mackerel.
Chumming will provide bluefish up to 5 pounds in Maryland on the Southwest Middle Grounds. In Virginia, the Northern Neck Reef and Buoy 62 area will provide nice bluefish hauls as well.
BOTTOM FISHING will peak this month and should continue to provide good action into October. Croaker catches have been scattered but Spot will become plentiful over most hard bottom areas. Most of the rivers and creeks are holding spot at this time.
Whether you fish from your boat, kayak or one of our charter boats, this month promises to be memorable. Enjoy your early Christmas present.
Until next time…fair winds.