Tue07292014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

   2014 39.95 HSD w VIDor PH-Banner2-500-x-125

The croaker are here in numbers…and so are catfish!

Although anglers have been targeting and catching croaker since June in our area, they have been hit or miss until the last few weeks. More and more reports showed that croaker were steadily biting and recently it seems that almost any angler could get out on the Potomac, dunk a piece of squid and get a croaker to bite.

A few things should be kept in mind though. These croaker that are biting are not the huge fish we had years ago. Most of what is biting measures between 8-12 inches with a few bigger than that. There are ways, however,  to up your take and increase the size of what you catch too.

Go deep
Last week I took a friend of mine out to the Maryland side of the river to fish. I had not had the boat out but a few rare times this entire year and wondered if the boat would even run. It did and the fish were biting too.
We had an incoming tide and anchored up on the shelf off Lower Cedar Point. A little fooling around produced some small croaker. I did not like the size we were getting so we edged out to the drop off and began heaving our lines into the chasm over the edge. Going from 10 feet of water to 30 feet of water did the trick. The fish increased by several inches in size. We quit catching perch (nothing wrong with a big perch though!) and small croaks and started getting big catfish and nicer croaker. I think the largest croaker we boated in that spot was 16 inches.

We decided to make a run to a location that last year held some nice puppy drum, but that run yielded little more than an expensive anchor lost. Somehow the anchor clip undid itself and I was out $78. However, in that “rainstorm” of sorts we made some “lemonade”. It was not yet dark and we did not want to quit fishing. I knew of an anomaly in the bottom near the channel that created a “J” shaped hook in the contour. There were several spikes in the bottom in that area before the bottom went uphill to the shelf. My hope was for some striped bass to be on those spikes, but at the least I figured some croaker would be present.

Drift
Having no anchor we deployed the flounder tactics. With the boat uptide of the area, we heaved out our lines and watched the tips “Tap, tap, tap, tap” as the sinker rolled the bottom being dragged. I don’t think we went ten yards when my buddy’s rod bent over. His fish was nice at 16 inches and I followed up with one like it. The action continued consistently until we reached the shelf and came up to the shallows.

Dark
Any croaker angler and possibly most anglers with any experience, will tell you that the “magic hour” occurs in the twilight periods. The same can be said for hunting. That transition period is powerful. Things change as if a switch were flipped.

While fish  bites prior to the last half hour of the day were very consistent and active for the two of us, the action picked up to the degree that we could only fish with one rod near dark. It was too busy. The fish were all over 14 inches too. I prefer to fish evening because things only get better as dark approaches and generally the winds will die down.

However, early a.m., if you can manage to get up early enough to get on spot before sunrise, works very well too. The bite does die off, but then you just pull em up and head to the barn. That evening we lost count at 36 croaker in just under two hours of actual fishing. Some we threw back, but overall we had a good time.

Just to be sure none of the above was just a good evening out, I checked around with some sources who declined to be named and found their experiences mirrored mine. With such good news in hand, the girls and I headed out on Friday evening to give it a whirl too. While we did not catch any catfish on Friday, the croaker and perch were very willing and we only used very old refrozen squid for bait. I suspect the next few weeks will be the best croaker action we will see for the season. It may be worth your while to get out and take some kids or friends with you to enjoy the action. I fileted the fish we caught and they fried up nicely. Although some of the filets were small, they were delicious. Get some fresh veggies out of the garden or at the Farmer’s Market to side with your meal. Summer does not get much better!

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