July offers a diverse fishery in the middle Chesapeake Bay for Spanish Mackerel, Red Drum, Croakers, Spot, and Perch. The Spanish Mackerel “Mac” is a fast swimming predator fish with a mouth full of teeth! Macs can be found and caught by trolling small spoons through schools of bay anchovies. If you see a school of anchovies on the top of the water you can bet there are some macs in the mix. Pay attention while you are fishing because often times macs will get airborne and jump 5 or 6 feet clear out of the water while they are feeding. Rigging for mackerel is simple. For the most effective rig, you’ll want to deploy #1, #2, & #3 planers with small 2-4 inch spoons. Your leader should be a minimum of 20 feet in length. Use 30# fluorocarbon with a small barrel swivel in the middle to keep it from twisting. Run your #3 planers short (20’-40’), #2 planers (40’-70’), and #1 planers (75’-125’). Adjust the lengths based upon the water depth. Troll your baits FAST at 5-7.5kts through the schools of anchovies. When trolling against the current, adjust your speed to the lower end (5-6kts) and when trolling with the current, you’ll want to speed it up (6-7.5kts). If you are trolling perpendicular to the current, start at a slower speed and speed up until you determine what speed works best. Mackerel seem to prefer feeding on or near drop-offs but they can also be found in shallow water along beaches. However, your best bet is to locate the schools of anchovies. If Red Drum “reds” are what you’re after, you’ll want to search the flats along channel edges for signs of them. Some things to look for are large oil slicks on the water, small black birds picking at the water, and a sweet smell in the air near the slicks. You can catch reds by trolling big spoons or jig for them using 3oz jigs with big twister tails. My favorite baits are the skirted jigs by Hard Head Custom Baits. Reds are significantly stronger than a Striped Bass of equivalent size so do not underestimate their power and ability to hurt you once you’ve landed them! Yes they have teeth! Whether you are looking to catch some perch for the frying pan, Spot for live bait, or just a little bit of rod bending action, bottom fishing is a lot of fun! You’ll want to fish on oyster bars and hard bottom areas for these fish. To find these places, use your fish finder. When you are over a soft bottom, the bottom line on your screen will appear thin. When you find a hard bottom or an oyster bar, the bottom line on your screen will appear very thick and darker in color. If it shows 2 dark lines on the bottom it is an exceptionally hard bottom. Start by drifting over the area and if you catch a couple fish, drop a waypoint try anchoring. Sometimes the fish won’t bite while on anchor. Especially Perch. When anchoring do it QUIETLY! If your anchor drags it is because you either did not pay out enough anchor line, your anchor is under sized, or you do not have enough chain. In any event, you’ll likely have spooked all the fish so you will want to move on. Blood worms the best and most consistent bait for Spot, Croaker, and perch. If you are able to locate a school of croaker, you can catch them with squid, peeled shrimp, and soft crab. For bottom fishing tackle, you will want a medium/light – fast action rod with 14# braided line. Braided line will help you feel the bite better. Also, be sure to have plenty of weights (2, 3, & 4oz) and snelled flicker hooks (#6, #4, & #2).
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Written by Captain Luke J. Koller