Gone Fishin' - Oct. 21, 1991
October 21, 1991 By Charlie Taylor
With the striper season ending temporarily on Sunday, and the last early morning high tide set for Tuesday, Rick Shontz and I decided to head out and catch some stripers. Knowing that the prime feeding time for stripers is occurs from one hour before sunup until one hour after sunup, we timed our departure carefully, taking into consideration such items as flat tires, traffic jams, accidents, routine traffic stops by friendly police officers, etc. Given all these possible circumstances, we figured that we should leave home about midnight in order to guarantee being in the proper place by the 6:00 a.m. deadline. Recognizing that we each had to work and put in some sort of appearance at home occasionally, we finally agreed to meet at 5:00 a.m. and head for the river.
This decided, we turned our attention to deciding how long we could put off other chores, while we sought the elusive stripers. This took about two minutes, as we each decided that we could not spare more than a couple of hours. Rick is an executive in a high pressure business, and could not afford to take off a whole morning and I had to return to my computer to compose and deliver this column. Recognizing our limitations, we decided that we would fish for 2-3 hours, starting at 6:00 a.m.
Accordingly, we launched Rick's bass boat at 5:45 a.m. and headed for a nice point, where the tide caused a rip in the current. The point extends quite a distance out into the river, with deeper water on each side. As the tide moves across this point, it increases in velocity, disorienting baitfish that get caught in it. This is an ideal spot for feeding stripers, as they can zero in on the helpless baitfish with very little effort.
Rigging with Rebel FasTrac minnows in "G" finishes, we immediately starting casting across the rip and retrieving at a medium speed. While we were retrieving the baits, we were constantly scanning the surface of the surrounding water for telltale rolls of feeding stripers. Plenty of shad were seen jumping, but no large rolls. At one point, we noted a number of large rolls on the outer end of the point, near deeper water. Proceeding out to this area, we continued to cast, all the time keeping our eyes peeled to determine what kind of fish were rolling. Finally, we noted that the rolling fish were probably gar. This put our minds at ease and we returned to the point to continue casting.
Rick made contact first. As he set the hook, he noted that this was a good fish. After fighting the fish a few moments, he decided against the necessity of the net, as the fish was probably foul hooked. Bringing the fish alongside, we found that the fish was not foul hooked, but was a rather good fish. We got out the golden rule and measured the fish, noting that it was 22 inches long, more than enough for "keeper" status. Since neither of us would have the time to clean the fish, we elected to release all fish caught.
Over the course of the next hour, each of us caught a number of stripers and released the fish, after measuring them. The measurements were necessary, in order to complete the required report on the Striped Bass Fishing Permit. This information is used by the Potomac River Fisheries Commission to determine the current stocks of fish and the number and size of those which are kept by anglers.
At one point during our fishing, Rick set the hook in what he called a "small fish". As the fight ensued, it was apparent that this was not a striper. Sure enough, the fish brought to the side of the boat was a chunky largemouth bass, weighing in at about three pounds. This fish was also promptly released. During the final hour of our fishing, we caught enough keeper stripers for seven anglers. All the fish were released in good condition.
The tide turned around 8:30 and began going out. This seemed to turn the fish off, and after casting without result for another half hour, we headed to the ramp. It seemed kind of strange to be taking the boat out of the water at 9 a.m., while everyone else was just putting in, but this was our game plan.
We arrived home about 10:30, in time to start other endeavors. I, to my office, and Rick to his. What a thrill to have had an excellent day of fishing and still be home at 10:30 in the morning. This, we will have to do more often.
For those of you who have not tried the striper fishing in the Potomac River, the season ends on Sunday, and does not reopen until November 21. Most of the better fish are located from Fairview Beach in Stafford County to Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County. Any point or piece of structure in the river that causes a tidal rip will generally hold stripers at dawn and dusk. Islands or humps that drop off on all sides into deeper water will also hold these magnificent fish. Trolling white bucktails, Sassy Shads, Rebel FasTrac minnows, Cordell Redfins, Rapala Shad Raps or Rat-L-Traps will generally take the fish. Casting around the structure will also take the fish, once they have been located.