By Bill Hall
The 2019 edition of the Bay Challenge Fishing Tournament was held on Saturday, October 12, 2019, and attracted a field of 140 anglers. Based at the Onancock Town Wharf, the family-oriented tournament is held by the Eastern Shore Anglers Club and proceeds from the tournament go towards scholarships for local youth to attend the Chincoteague Bay Field Station Outdoor Education Camp.
Upper Shore – Alan Ring, at the Seahawk Sports Center, said that there were lots of fish and lots of fun at last weekend’s Bay Challenge Fishing Tournament out of Onancock. The shop’s own Dean Carrol took first place in the striped bass category with a 7.75-pound rockfish. Ring said that there are some flounder still biting around some of the seaside inlets when clear water can be found. Ring recommended live minnows, silversides, and Seahawk rigs for success with flounder. The early portion of the Virginia rockfish season was described as being very good, though there are a lot of fish below the minimum size limit. Casting paddletails on jigheads has been a productive method for catching stripers. Ring said that the majority of rockfish in the Maryland portion of the bay were still in their shallow water pattern, with most of the fish caught along the marsh banks. A few fish have started to school up during feeding in the deeper water where they can be caught by dropping Stingsilvers. Ring and Carrol ran into a school of surface-feeding trophy red drum and caught and released 47- and 48-inch fish respectfully on light tackle.
Chincoteague – Donna Rae Roeske, of Captain Bob’s Marina, said that fishing had been productive before the arrival of last weekend’s high tides and coastal flooding. Flounder, striper, spot, and a few drum were among the species caught. A couple of diehard anglers managed to catch a few undersized striped bass during the recent flooding by casting inside the protected harbor at Captain Bob’s. By late Saturday, the tides and winds had started subsiding, anglers were back to catching stripers and flounder inside the bulkhead of Curtis Merritt Harbor, according to Roeske. She said that drum have been caught in the surf but recent strong winds and “terribly rough breakers” have made surf fishing a challenge. She said that the fish are still here and she expects good fishing to return as the conditions continue to improve.
Jimmy Vasiliou, at Captain Steve’s Bait & Tackle, reported that the back bay was holding spot, flounder, speckled trout, small rockfish, and puffers. The speckled trout have gotten a little larger and the stripers were averaging 18 to 24 inches with an occasional keeper-size fish in the mix. A few keeper flounder have been caught on the East Side Pier. He said that the flounder are scattered around the island, while the speckled trout are more concentrated “up north,” where a few puppy drum have been taken by anglers casting Gulp Swimming Mullet in the new penny shrimp coloration. Plenty of small seas bass are “everywhere,” Big red drum were being caught in the surf, but action slowed during the recent exceptionally high tides. Bluefish, spot, and kingfish (whiting) were more consistent catches off the beach. No reports from offshore as the lingering coastal storm has kept boaters in port.
Wachapreague – Amanda Manzella, at the Wachapreague Inn, said that a few flounder have been caught by anglers using “Gulp Shad and live minnows in the mouths of some of the marsh guts. Anglers casting in the flooded grass beds were rewarded with a few trout. She said that the extreme king tides last week made for tough fishing. She added that trout were being caught on the bayside on live spot baits. Sandpiper Marine will have its grand re-opening at its new location on Lankford Highway in Tasley on October 16, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Several special promotions are planned for the celebration.
Lower Shore – Chris Snook, at Chris’ Bait & Tackle, reported that speckled trout fishing has been “off the chain” with some nice-sized fishing coming in the shop. Puppy drum and small stripers were also being encountered by those anglers seeking trout. Flounder were being caught when anglers could locate clear water. The Kiptopeke Park Pier has produced some bluefish, spot, toads (puffers), and flounder, while catches of speckled trout have come from both the Kiptopeke and Cape Charles fishing piers.
Jeb Brady, at Bailey’s Bait & Tackle, added that speckled trout action was “really good” last week on both the Chesapeake Bay and seaside. The trout were described as being “nice-sized,” with most anglers reporting catches of fish measuring 18 to 22 inches. Schools of puppy drum within the slot limit have also been encountered by some of the trout fishermen. Jeb said that a few flounder have been reported around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the Fishermen’s Island Bridge.