Been a long while since I have posted a report up here. The fishing had remained solid since our last report at the end of July. We ran a lot of charters since then, but it was back to football and teaching with some fishing on the weekends. Now we are into the winter doldrums and I am already missing he boat as I look at it's looking lonely wrapped up in the yard. So many things to talk discuss about this past season. The general outlook was that it pretty slow all the way up and down the coast, with the exception of a few weeks of good fishing here and there. However, we made the best of it and did some really cool fishing. The numbers weren't fantastic, but we got onto some really nice stripers this year!
Before I lead on with the report, I want to thank every customer that came out on Manolin Charters this year. In our second year of operation, we surpassed my year 4 goal of charters run! In fact, we had doubled the number of trips from year 1! Many repeat customers and a bunch from word of mouth, with the website gaining a little traction as well. We are very proud of operation and very lucky to have been able to host so many wonderful people from all various demographics. Thank you so much for coming out with us! The business is really about you and your experience. I feel like I have made a bunch of new friends over the past two years, and there is still nothing better than watching a kid nail their first keeper striper!
Now on to the fishing!
The early season started about two weeks later than the previous 3 seasons, which had been abnormally early to begin with. The middle of May we started up river catching micro bass on plugs, plastics, and even on the fly! The past few years we hadn't seen these micros in the spring. These fish were a blast on appropriate light tackle. It's always to spend 2 hours from dock to dock and catch 20 + fish. The amount of smaller fish was incredibly encouraging because this fish were from the record high 2011 YOY class in the Chesapeake Bay (spawning grounds) that safely made their way in our river system. Although it will take a few years for these stripers to become of legal size, the future looks very bright!
If using light tackle, casting lures, fly fishing for non stop action is your thing, please contact my in mid to late May to have a special 3 hrs afternoon schoolie charter at a discounted rate. It's super fun as these fish are hungry and we fish different areas then we do the rest of the season. It's a good way to get into the mindset that fishing season is upon us
A few weeks later, we started making bait out at the usual early season spots. With that came the bigger bass. We caught our first keepers on 5/24. But as was the pattern that continued all throughout the summer, the changing wind patterns and constant cold fronts made it extremely difficult to pattern and get on these fish.
June started and we are in generally prime striper month! We had fish around, but the numbers were not like they should be. It seemed like every trip we would have frontal conditions that would shut down the bite for a few days. Everyone was struggling, but we were managing a 6-8 fish a day with 3 or so keepers in the mix. One trip we had 15 keepers and another 8 shorts on top of it.
At this point in June, it was evident the bigger bass were WAY up river still gorging on the massive amount of herring than came up through the spring. It was a waiting game until the fish dropped back. And when they did it was an epic two days of fishing! Then, another cold front!
With June in the books, things started picking up a bit more. Mackerel fishing remained outstanding. A complete reverse from 2013 when we had massive amounts of stripers, but were always on the move for mackerel we now could get the macks in a manner of minutes, but had to find something to feed them too.
As July progressed, the same pattern would emerge: Catch 12 keepers one day, 4 the next, and then struggle to get a bit on the third. Repeat. Super frustrating. On off days I was fishing solo from 5 AM till 7 PM most days trying everything I could think of to get on a quality pile of fish. All that worked paid off in mid July.
Mid July brought some of the most epic bites of big fish I have ever witnessed. Our tactics had to adapt and change with the situation that presented itself. We had some banner days, landed 7 fish over 40 pounds, had one day with 35+ keepers and another 20 or so just short stripers. This saved our season and part of the reason for the lack of reports during this time, as we were being a little sneaky! It really opened my eyes about a few things that just made complete sense and now have another tool in the tool box!
August was August. Some good days, not as hot as July, but action to be had. We did a shark trip, which was sweet as I hadn't sharked much at all this past season, and caught some nice blue dogs and got to see some whales and porpoises while we were out there.
Football started up for me and I did a few more trips on the weekends. We had two days of catching bluefish on Labor Day weekend, all on top water and trolling! This was fantastic as we barely had any bluefish in 2013. However, this again was short lived as we caught 15 blues one day, then 7, then 4, then 2, then 1. Argh!! I caught them from the mouth to 12 miles south to 8 miles east to off the coast of New Hampshire. Those bastards can swim!
Didn't do much tuna fishing. I think I went once or twice when I had the time. I missed a big bite on Southern Jeffries due to a few weddings I was a part of (Seriously guys, getting married in October during football and prime tuna season? So selfish!) and couldn't get out there.
So to sum it up: Not our typical year, in fact probably one of the worst on record in terms of keeper bass. However, let's talk about the positives that happened:
- Bait was fantastic - Mackerel, Herring, Pogies, Sandeels, Whiting, all were in abundance the entire season
- Big Girls Showed Up - The slow fishing led to re-evaluation of the conditions and brought us to some of the most epic fishing I have been apart of for about 6 weeks
- The new boat is the real deal - Loved every minute I spent on it! So much more room for customers and designed perfectly for how I like to fish
- The Life - Seals, whales just of the beach and offshore, dolphins, etc...
- Bluefish made an appearance
- Micro bass and schoolie stripers - The previous years it seemed I would only get a handful of fish under 28 inches and it had me worried about the future. With the micro bass making a return and the amount of 22 - 26 inch fish was the widest range of distribution I have seen in a while. The numbers were solid from this aspect and should lead to a productive future.
- Being with friends and family all summer long catching fish!
I'll be reporting over the winter announcing our big winner for biggest fish of the year as well as fishing related blogs dealing with the new limits on stripers, a gear guide/review, and some other neat stuff!