Wednesday, June 21, 2017

CBBT Part 2 - A Day for Jigging and Drifting

The second day of our trip started out much better from the weather standpoint.  The morning started off with bluebird skies even though the wind and waves were much more tolerable.  We decided to start off by drift fishing for flounder around the bridge islands and jig the pilings for whatever fish were willing to bite.  The goal was to catch a variety of species but still have a shot at a big drum or cobia, because they hang around the bridge structure too.

The North end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel where it connects to Fisherman's Island.
Captain Steve hooked me up with a flounder rig and I tipped it with a chartreuse Berkeley Gulp mullet.  Steve had a dual rig, one of the tails was tipped with a Gulp mullet and the other with a strip of squid.  We did several drifts around the fourth island without any luck.  We decided to cast and jig around the island for anything that was willing to bite.

Steve had a bottom spreader rig ready to go and loaded it up with strips of squid, while I tied on a jig and Gulp mullet combo.  I had a few bites but the fish bit the tail off my lure, then I hung up on the rip rap.  He started off with a bang, catching four species of fish right off the bat.  His first four fish were an oyster toadfish, black sea bass, a pigfish, and a northern kingfish (not necessarily in that order).  Toadfish are ugly, nasty creatures, but his was the biggest one that I've seen in a long time.  Almost all of those fish were caught while I was tying on a new jig.

Steve with a big fat ugly nasty oyster toadfish!
His next catch was a small black sea bass.  These guys can get up to about nine pounds.
And a pigfish, pretty enough to put in an aquarium.
Then I finally hook into a monster sea bass, all of about four inches.  Another fish worthy of an aquarium!  We needed big fish.
We jigged around the island and caught some small sea bass.  My jig and Gulp combo was drawing attention, but from small fish that ripped the tail off.  So, I tipped the jig with squid and began hooking up on these bites.  But, this wasn't what we were after.

We moved on to other pilings.  I threw a Savage Gear Real Eel in hopes of a cobia bite at the pilings with no luck.  At each piling, after a few casts with the Real Eel, I jigged a Gulp mullet at anything that would bite.  I was hoping to catch a tautog, but no luck with them.  Meanwhile, Steve tossed a bottom rig with peeler crab as bait.  He scored a nice sheepshead that was about nine pounds or so on the peeler crab.

Steve caught this nice sheepshead on a peeler crab and saved it for the table.
Sheepshead teeth are almost human like.  This guy could use a little brushing and flossing!  Notice the pharyngeal teeth on the roof of their mouth.  They're on the bottom jaw too, perfectly designed for crushing crabs, shrimp and shellfish.  
Meanwhile, I caught a bunch of undersized weakfish, or sea trout, one after another on my jig/Gulp mullet combo.  They'd bite off the tail, so I'd add a squid strip and kept on catching them.  They were pretty good at ripping the squid from the hooks, so I got lazy and decided to just toss in the jig/Gulp without the tail.  Guess what?  They hit it just as well, if not better!  I think that the tailless jig got to the bottom quicker to more fish.  Steve switched to his light tackle bottom rig and was catching them two at a time.

Steve caught weakfish and speckled trout on his bottom rig two at a time while I caught them just about every cast tossing a tailless Gulp mullet.
I caught a few new species for me on this trip, speckled trout (aka spotted sea trout), northern kingfish and southern kingfish.  I've caught weakfish (or sea trout) before, but never the speckle trout ones.  Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of the speckled trout.  All of these fish bit all afternoon, giving me easily 100 fish for the day in the count.  It was quite fun.

The northern kingfish was a new species for me in addition to the speckled sea trout.  You can distinguish these from southern kingfish by the black bars along the body, while the southern kingfish are bronze on the back, faint bars with a white belly.  To further confuse things, the gulf kingfish, pictured below, look like southern kingfish but lack the bars.  All three have a single barbel on their chin.
I think that this is the gulf kingfish.  I'm pretty sure that we also caught southern kingfish too, but I don't have pictures of them, but they look very similar to this fish.  Both species are new catches for me.  I advise against not lipping them as they have pretty small but sharp teeth that cut my thumb.  The cut wasn't bad, but enough sting to remind me not to do it again.  I learned the hard way.
I've since been reading up on how to catch "togs" because I didn't have any luck with them on this trip.  I wasn't far off by jigging for them, but live bait is probably going to be a necessity, using sand fleas, peeler crabs, Asian crabs, or green crabs (fiddler crabs).  Maybe next time.

Although we didn't catch any flounder while drifting, we still had a lot of fun jigging with bites almost every cast at one point.  We wound up both catching a ton of sea trout mixed with all three species of kingfish, and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening trying for cobia and redfish.

We set up at Steve's first spot, where we'd caught the shark the night before.  Everything seemed right for that spot.  The tides were moving the right direction but not too strong.  The wind was finally not a factor.  We had fresh baits out there, including some of the fish that we caught jigging that can be used for bait.  However, the fish had other ideas.  We fished almost two hours without a bite and were going to make a spot change when thunderstorms started to move in.

We decided to head back to the ramp, take out, go get a nice dinner at a restaurant and perhaps a drink, and get a good night's sleep.  The plan was to get up early the next day and target the big fish early, then drift for flounder in the afternoon.

We caught a lot of fish, but the only keeper size fish all day was the sheepshead.  Steve couldn't believe that we didn't even pick up a shark or ray.  Maybe if the weather would have let us fish to the evening bite things would be different.  But not this time.

If you missed CBBT Part 1, please click here
To read CBBT Part 3, please click here

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